Miscues hurt Kansas in 56-34 loss to West Virginia

Steven Sims Jr., caught six passes for 96 yards and one TD.LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas sophomore running back Khalil Herbert impressed the home crowd at Memorial Stadium on Saturday against West Virginia, picking up 291 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, but mental mistakes by the team, and two interceptions and a fumble from junior quarterback Peyton Bender proved to be costly in the Jayhawks’ 56-34 loss.
Herbert’s rushing total was the third-most in the Kansas single-game records, as he surpassed a 283-yard game from Kansas legend Gale Sayers in 1962. Only Tony Sands (396 yards) and Nolan Cromwell (294 yards) have rushed for more yards in the 127-year history of the program.
The Jayhawks (1-3, 0-1 Big 12) came out of the gate firing as Herbert put the team on his back and carried it down the field, rushing 70 yards on 10 attempts on Kansas’ first drive, including an 18-yard gain on the game’s first play. Despite Herbert’s efforts on the drive, the Jayhawks were forced to kick a field goal after a devastating false start on fourth-and-1 at the WVU 3-yard line stalled the KU progression.
Senior kicker Gabriel Rui drove home the 28-yard attempt to give Kansas a 3-0 lead with 8:52 remaining in the first quarter.
West Virginia (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) rebounded from the Kansas field goal with four unanswered touchdowns to dig the Jayhawks in a 28-3 hole with 5:17 remaining in the first half.
Determined to get his team back in the game, Herbert’s number was called on three-straight plays to start the ensuing drive after the fourth WVU touchdown. Gaining seven and one yard on the first two plays, respectively, Herbert broke free on his third attempt of the drive for a career-long 67-yard touchdown run.
The Jayhawks had a prime opportunity to cut into the West Virginia lead after posting a defensive stop and regaining possession of the ball with 44 seconds remaining in the half, but bad luck struck the Jayhawks in the form of a pass that was tipped by junior wide receiver Steven Sims Jr., before being intercepted and taken into the end zone by West Virginia’s Mike Daniels to stretch the Mountaineer lead to 25.
Kansas regained composure after the miscue and was able to move down the field in 30 seconds to end the half with a 41-yard field goal from Rui, a new career long for the kicker out of Hinton, Oklahoma.
Down 35-13 at halftime, Kansas came out in the second half with determination and posted two-straight scoring drives. The Jayhawks forced a punt on West Virginia’s opening drive of the half and drove 89 yards in nine plays, capped with a 60-yard scamper from Herbert before punching it in for his second score of the game from five yards out to cut the deficit to 15.
The Jayhawk defense stepped up yet again on the ensuing Mountaineer drive, as sophomore cornerback Hasan Defense provided Kansas with a big momentum swing. The Kilgore College transfer came up with his first-career interception at the KU 30, halting the threatening West Virginia drive.
Kansas was unable to capitalize on the takeaway, but forced a West Virginia punt on the following drive and swung the momentum even further in favor of the home team on the first play after the punt.
Bender connected with Sims down the left sideline on a perfectly-placed pass that hit the Houston, Texas native in stride for a 64-yard completion. Sims was drug down at the 3-yard line and a roughing the passer penalty on the same play moved the ball to the 1-yard line, where junior running back Taylor Martin carried it home to bring the Jayhawks within one score at 35-27.
A bit of bad luck hit the Jayhawks a little later in the game, as they held the Mountaineers to a field goal with 11:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, but junior defense end Dorance Armstrong Jr., was called offside on the play, giving West Virginia a fresh set of downs from the 1-yard line. A seven-yard completion from West Virginia quarterback Will Grier to wide receiver David Sills V extended the Mountaineer lead to 42-27.
Kansas battled through adversity and completed a 75-yard drive in 12 plays that ended in a seven-yard touchdown from Bender to Sims, marking the third time the two have connected for a score this season.
Down 42-37 with 7:35 remaining, the Jayhawks needed a big stop from the defense but were unable to get one as West Virginia scored on a six-play, 72-yard drive that ate up 2:12 of the game clock.
On the first play of the following drive, Bender was hit as he attempted what was originally ruled an incomplete pass, but after an official review, was overturned and ruled a fumble in which West Virginia recovered. That play all but sealed the fate of the Jayhawks, as WVU would go on to score another touchdown and win the game, 56-34.
Redshirt junior linebacker Joe Dineen Jr., led the Jayhawks defensively for the fourth time this season out of the four games KU has played in 2017, posting 14 total tackles, including 11 solo and two tackles for loss and one sack.
The Jayhawks have a week off from competition before heading into the sixth week of the season when they will face Texas Tech. The Red Raiders will visit Lawrence on October 7 to face the Jayhawks on Homecoming. Single game tickets for the Big 12 tilt are available at KUTickets.com.

Kansas head coach David Beaty
DAVID BEATY: Just real quick, take my hat off to Coach Holgorsen and his staff. Those guys did a good job getting their team ready to play. They came in here and won a Big 12 Conference game on the road, and you’ve got to give them credit for finding a way to win. I thought the quarterback for them played really well today, and their running back played really well. I thought their O-line did a pretty good job of protecting, and that’s kind of something we felt like we needed to take advantage of going into the game.

Let’s take some questions, that way I can answer exactly what you’re looking for.

Q. At what point does the plan become let’s see how far Khalil Herbert can take us today?
DAVID BEATY: Well, we knew going into the game based on how they structure and some of the things we’d seen in the previous couple of weeks where their advantage is. When you’re game planning, you take a lot of different things into account, number one, where your strengths lie, where your strengths lie up front, and then where you feel like you can exploit what they’re doing schematically, and that’s kind of where that game started. We felt like we might be able to do that early. We were hoping we could, and we did for the most part. I thought we had a lot of that first quarter which is something we had to do with a very explosive team.

Q. When you’re having so many massive chunk plays on the ground, is that helpful for both sides of the ball to just see the offense having that type of success because the defense, can they feed off of that, too?
DAVID BEATY: Oh, certainly. I think they both can feed off each other in all three phases of the game. We just got done talking in there about it’s never about one side or one third of the game. It’s always about playing complementary football and us having each other’s back. We did have some explosives today, and typically if you win an explosive and you won the turnover battle you’ll have a really good chance to win. Well, we didn’t win the turnover battle, and they had some explosives, as well.

Q. Four-straight 80-yard touchdown drives for West Virginia in the first half. Was that just too big a hole to dig out of?
DAVID BEATY: Well, you would think normally that’s a pretty tough hole, but we kind of dug out of it. I think we had an unfortunate play there right towards the end of the first half that, man, it was a booger, it killed you, because you give up a touchdown on a pick six. I think I talked about it on the radio here just a second ago, and that’s unfortunate because there’s a guy barreling down on him (Peyton Bender), he’s got to get the ball out, he has to get it up, Steven (Sims Jr.) is not the tallest guy, he went up and tried to get it and curved, he’s assigned to block that guy. He’s got him right where he’s supposed to have him, and the ball bounces right to him. You know what, sometimes those things happen. The ball bounces your way sometimes.

But the thing I liked about it is the fact that we came back in that next drive. We didn’t sit there and go in at halftime — instead of being a seven-point turnaround, that was a four-point turnaround, and that’s something to build on.

You know, same thing with us all over the field. We’ve got to keep fighting and we’ve got to keep fighting and we’ve got to keep improving. That’s the thing is continuing to improve. As much as I know it may be difficult for just the average fan to see, I see the improvement. I see some improvement going on out there in all three phases. We’ve got to make a lot of progress quicker because this is a tough conference, but that’s a good football team. That’s a good football team out there, and they can put points on the board pretty quickly, which they did in the fourth quarter. I thought the second half was a tale of two quarters.

Q. And in particular the two false starts on 4th downs and Dorance’s offsides on the field goal attempt?
DAVID BEATY: You know, we just — we just finished talking about if we don’t think it’s — we know it’s not athletically that we’re struggling. We know that we athletically can do it, it’s just managing the mental part of the game and being a smart football team. We say that every week, not letting crazy things happen to us, going out there and Dorance (Armstrong Jr.) jumping offside right there. That was a big play in the game.

But he also did a lot of things for us to get us into that position. They didn’t score on that play. We could have stopped them, and we didn’t. Those type of things are going to happen. You don’t want them to, but you’re going to have some negative adversity come your way, and you’ve got to find a way to bow your neck and get on the field again. Those five-yard penalties up front, man, they’re unacceptable. Same thing with Dorance’s. They’re unacceptable. Those things can’t happen. That’s a reflection on us as a staff. I don’t know about my guys — I think I know my guys; we don’t like that, because I know we teach them better.

Q. Your run blocking, maybe you do that as well as you do anything, and how much of that is the personnel changes or just gaining confidence or whatever?
DAVID BEATY: I think a lot of it’s development to be honest with you. We have just a few new guys in there, but Chris Hughes is a developing guy, he developed over last year, he didn’t play at all, but we knew he was going to be a pretty good player. He’s got a lineage. His brothers both played at Texas. Both of them were massive and really good players. We knew he had a chance to be really good, and I thought Zach did a great job bringing him home.

Mesa Ribordy, he saw some action last year and actually had a pretty decent season, but seeing him develop has been good. Watching (Andru) Tovi develop, we didn’t start him the first couple games because he just wasn’t ready, but we developed him over time. I think development has been kind of a key for us up front, and we knew that coming into this project, this turnaround project, that it was going to be hardest up front. But I am proud of Zach Yenser and what his vision was for what we were trying to get done up front. I think it’s starting to pay dividends.

Q. It was just like an eight-point game in the fourth quarter, and you guys opened with the ball in the fourth quarter. I think there was a 3rd down play where Bender maybe had a chance to run the ball but tried to kind of get Ben Johnson on the sideline right there in front of you. Is that as critical a point as any?
DAVID BEATY: I think it was a big point, but I thought he might have been able to run, but my guys upstairs are like, no chance he wasn’t getting a 1st down there. He runs about like me, and I’m not very good.

But we would like to see our scramble, our scramble drill work a little bit better. And that’s a scenario we’ve got to get better at is scramble drill. Now, he hasn’t done it a whole lot, so we’ve got to be prepared for it. It would have been nice to see him throw a little Khalil Herbert juke and see if he could get the first, but he felt like he could squeeze it into Ben, and he just didn’t get it in there.

Q. I know you want to play up tempo in the air-raid, but when you can run the ball like you did today, is it potentially something you use to maybe burn some clock in the future if you can run the ball with this kind of success?
DAVID BEATY: You know, I think by nature of the run game, you get to utilize a lot of clock. I think that’s really kind of the story of the first quarter, which was something we were hoping we could get done, which was chew up the first quarter with some drives running the football and trying to stick to it a little bit. Yeah, I mean, you’d like to be able to utilize that at times. Unfortunately, we got behind again, and when you get behind, you’ve got to start throwing it a little bit. You’ve got to be a balanced football team, period, anyway, but I’ll tell you this: We’re improving, and we’re going to continue to fight. We’re getting better in a lot of areas. We’re just not there yet, and I hate it for our fans, I hate it for our stakeholders because they deserve better than that. But there’s a lot of improvement in areas, just not enough yet, not enough to win that game today, and that’s unfortunate because I thought that was a really, really evenly matched game to be honest with you as we got into it. I felt like it should have been a lot closer than it turned out to be. That’s disappointing.

Q. Do you feel like this today was the best rushing game that you’ve had in your tenure here at Kansas that you can think of?
DAVID BEATY: No doubt. I thought we ran the ball really, really well today. Khalil ran for 291 yards. That’s third all-time and pretty close to the second all-time, which, man, that’s good. We had a bunch of first downs, 24 of them. You think about the first half, you know, it’s a tale of first downs for us. They had 19 of their 31 1st downs in the first half, which we’ve just got to do a better job of getting off the ball there, getting off the field there on that first half and maybe the story is a little bit different. They had 31 first downs. Like I said, 19 of them came in the first half. That’s an area we can improve on a bunch. And we can do it because we came out there in the second half and did it in the third quarter. We got off the field, and I’m seeing those guys improve, and the other thing that — I mean, I’m not pleased with a lot, don’t get me wrong, particularly losing, but I love watching our staff make adjustments at halftime and coming out and continuing to work to try to find a way to make things better in that second half, and we’re actually doing a pretty decent job of that. We need to sustain that.

Q. You ended up running the ball a lot more than passing it today. Was that kind of the game plan going in, or did just the game dictated that’s how it ended up playing out?
DAVID BEATY: It was the plan. You know, I mean, we want to establish the run game. We’re not running like a whole lot of other people. I know you hear the term air-raid a lot, but we want to be able to establish the run. We do. You know, they’ve got some things that would prevent you from running it well unless you’re smart enough to be able to surface them and do some things that you should do. I thought each of them did a brilliant job of that. They did a really nice job of getting themselves in good position to create good angles.

Q. This is sort of a weird game, but are you more encouraged or discouraged?
DAVID BEATY: I am seeing improvement, which is good. Very discouraged about that fourth quarter because that’s not — that’s not how I felt like that game should have ended up, and all the unfortunate things that were self-inflicted that happened.

You know, the fumble, you know, we gave up one sack today, and it was the one that they called a fumble, so we had some improvement there, definitely. I don’t know, you guys probably got a better look at it, but I mean, I didn’t see it after a few seconds, but it sure looked like his hands moved forward, I’m not sure, but unfortunately we just didn’t protect him on that play, and that’s what happens when you put the quarterback in harm’s way. We’ve got to do that more to him, though, the other guy. We’ve got to get more pass rush on him and create that, as well. We just haven’t been able to do that, and we’ve got to keep working at it until we do it because we’re fixing to play another team that can sling it all over the yard. I’ll tell you what, underneath coverage was a little better today. We improved a little bit. We weren’t great, but we improved a little bit, which was good. We knocked a few balls down. We were contesting things, caused a few of those drops. We hadn’t had a dropped pass I don’t think coming into this game, but when you’re contesting balls, that happens, so it was good to see some of that happen.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Kansas Junior QB Peyton Bender
On the run game:
“If you can run the ball it makes it easier on the passing game, play actions and that sort of thing. We went into the game wanting to run the ball a little bit more. They play that three-five-three so we thought we’d be able to run it effectively, which we did. (Our) O-line blocked a great game and Khalil (Herbert) ran hard. That was good to see. We had a really good game as far as running goes.”
On how the run affects the team:
“Any time you get an explosive play it brings energy to the team. He (sophomore RB Khalil Herbert) had a few long ones today. He scored on the one and got stopped at the 2, maybe 3-yard line on the other one. He ran hard all day. He had a great game.”
On his main takeaway from today’s game:
“We started slow on offense. (It was) Not a good first half once again. We came out firing in the third quarter; had a really good third quarter again. It seems to be our best quarter so far this season. We just have to keep getting more consistent. I think we’re really close to clicking and getting that consistency down where we can sustain drives throughout the whole game.”
Kansas Sophomore RB Khalil Herbert
On the run game:
“We’ve been working on it all week. The O-line has been doing a great job and today we just came out and executed.”
On the O-line’s play today:
“I give thanks to God. (The) O-line blocked incredibly well today, so I just thank them.”
On what it’s going to take for the team to get over the hump:
“I think it’s just focusing on the details; little miscues and things like that. Penalties (are something) that we have to fix, but we’re going to fix that and learn from the film this week and get ready for Texas Tech.”
Kansas Sophomore OL Hakeem Adeniji
On the O-line:
“We’ve got some big guys up there between me, (Andru) Tovi, Mesa (Ribordy), Zach (Hannon) and Chris (Hughes). You’ve got guys who can put hands on D-linemen and get movement.”
On the offensive having a strong and successful first drive:
“It was good for our confidence knowing that we could go out there and move those guys around out front. That was good for us throughout the entire game.”
On the run game:
“We went out there and executed. We did a great job. At the end of the day we wanted to win, but there are positives that we have to draw from and get better from those.”
Kansas RS-Junior LB Joe Dineen Jr.
On what went wrong defensively in the fourth quarter:
“I haven’t seen the game yet obviously, but it’s probably just missed gaps and stuff like that. Stuff that’s correctable, but we’ve got to correct it. I feel like I come in here and say the same stuff to you guys every week, but it was correctable and we’ll get it fixed.”
On what signs of progress he’s seen in the team:
“West Virginia is probably one of the most talented teams in the Big 12. They’ve got guys all over the field, a stud quarterback, good running backs. They’re a solid team. There are series and series where we showed glimpses of what a good defense looks like.”
On what the team needs to do better to stop giving up high yardage:
“We just have to go in and watch film and we’ve got to make more plays. I know, personally, there were probably three or four plays that I missed that led to big runs or touchdowns even. I can’t do that. I’ve got to, first, make sure I’m good and then try to get other people going. I had my fair share of screw-ups today.”
On what was key in the third quarter defensive success by Kansas:
“Coach (Clint) Bowen did a great job. They really do a good job of in-game adjustments. We were following what Coach was having us do and the corrections that we made at halftime showed. I don’t know what happened in the fourth (quarter), but the third was a bright spot for us.”
On the stress West Virginia RS-Junior QB Will Grier put on the defense the entire game:
“It’s big, especially when we’re trying to cover the receivers they have. It’s tough to have a QB that can run like that. (I give) credit to him, he’s a stud. He’s a good player so he’ll make some plays like that. We were expecting stuff like that.”
On what they can take from Grier’s play into future Big 12 games:
“I think just experience. Going against quarterbacks that can run, that’s what the Big 12 is. There’s always another threat back there. There’s guys in the league that are probably better runners than him, so you just have to try to keep them in the pocket and keep them contained.”
On the momentum of the team:
“We had plenty of opportunities to win that game, we just didn’t take advantage of them. We were excited because we were getting stops and the offense was moving the ball, but we just have to keep that momentum going forward.”
Kansas Sophomore CB Hasan Defense
On the progress made today by the Jayhawks:
“Yeah, there was a lot of pressure coming into our first Big 12 game. We’ve been the weak link the first three weeks so we just know we have to come out and produce and communicate as much as possible. That’s what we struggled with. We lacked that, but we’re getting better.”
On West Virginia completing passes today against KU’s defense:
“That all comes back to the communication, communication helps us get in the right places where the ball is going to go. When you’re not communicating, you’re not communicating (and) you’re always in the wrong place. The ball is not going to find you when you’re in the wrong place.”
On the defense’s attitude:
“Everything matters now. Our emotions impact whether the game is positive or negative. Our emotions play a big role in the game; we just want to keep everybody on their toes, just (keep) fighting.”
On the difference in the defense during the fourth quarter:
“(We) Just failed plays. (It was) Just us not doing what we were supposed to do. We’ve been in those situations all camp, all summer, all spring and today we didn’t produce in those situations like we needed to.”
On what he needs to get done in the next couple of weeks:
“I just want to help my body recover and get stronger as much as possible. (I need to) Study our opponent a little more. We play Texas Tech and they’re a really good team, so I want to sit down with the rest of the corners and safeties and make sure we’re communicating.”
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen
Opening Statement:
“I’m glad we got out of here with a win. We looked good at times and bad at times. I think that anybody that was here and watched the game can probably figure that out. There were good things and bad things. We were either rolling on offense or we were not. I don’t what it was. The second quarter was good, (and the) fourth quarter was good. I’d rather be second and fourth than first and third. The defense finally started playing in the fourth quarter, I thought. They (Kansas) had a lot of momentum, you know? We had guys going down left and right, it’s no excuse. Guys have got to go in and play when guys go down. We had a lot of main players out, you guys know that, you saw (them) all on the sidelines and that affects a lot of different things. I’m sitting there scribbling all kinds of names on special teams. And it is a good thing that in the last two weeks we have been able to do this because we’ve (been) plugging in a lot of guys who can perform at a level where we can win a Big 12 football game. I’m proud of the way the guys just hung in there and pulled it away in the fourth quarter, that’s a sign of a good football team.”
On players that have been out:
“Obviously, the bye week comes at a good time, (we need to) get a lot of these guys healthy. I anticipate all these guys being great players against TCU. Everybody that has been out, I think they are ready to roll. I think we will be a different team in two weeks.”
On trying different offensive plays:
“We didn’t do anything different. They (Kansas) had a lot of momentum, they were playing good. We didn’t convert on third downs, we didn’t play very good on offense. We flipped the field and we started to go with the wind; I don’t know if that had anything to do with it. I don’t think the wind was a factor at all. It helped in the kick game a little bit, but if we can’t handle that in an offensive way, we have some issues. I don’t know if that was it, but if it was, we’ve got to adjust that. They played good in the third quarter, I give them credit. But I’m glad we played good in the fourth quarter. (It was) Good enough to win by whatever we won by, 22, so that’s a good win on the road in the Big 12. We will take it.”
On the defense allowing 300 yards:
“I think when you are missing some really good players, getting 11 (redshirt sophomore LB David Long Jr.) back is going to help, playing with No. 8 (senior S Kyzir White) the whole time is going to help, getting 16 (redshirt junior S Toyous Avery) back is going to help. Those guys are three guys that can get to the ball and make a lot of tackles for us. You take those guys out, and we are playing three freshmen. It is tough, and I’m glad we did it. I’m proud of the way 9 (sophomore S JoVanni Stewart) went in there and played, the way 1 (freshman S Derrek Pitts Jr.) went there and played, the way 10 (redshirt freshman LB Dylan Tonkery) has been playing. Those three guys have been playing good, but those guys need to be paying a bunch of snaps on special teams right now, not on defense. We’ve got to get our main guys back if we want to not have games like that. It is simple as that. And we will get those guys back. I don’t think we are good enough to where we were two or three deep, to where we can play two or three guys deep and not stone people. I don’t think we are going to be able to do that. There are a lot of good offenses in the Big 12. Kansas is pretty good on offense. They are going to do this to a lot of different people. I’m not happy about 300 yards rushing, but (if) you get your starters back, I think it will play a difference.”
West Virginia RS-Junior QB Will Grier
On the Mountaineers’ play in the third quarter vs. fourth quarter:
“A lot of times, we showed up and they (Kansas) were playing harder than us. I thought we weren’t playing as hard and then we struggled. Then we kind of picked it up and did some good things. (Our) Lines played really well, (and we) ran the ball really well.”
On the team’s slow start after half time:
“They made some adjustments (at half). They came out in the third quarter, played really hard and beat us on some stuff. We beat ourselves on a couple things. They played hard and they made some good plays, they have a good defense.”
On KU being able to control the inside run in second half:
“They made some adjustments at half time, their defensive line was really good. (They are) Talented guys; big, strong guys. Our O-line did some good stuff and we adjusted in the fourth quarter. They’re a good defense and once we settled in and did some good things, (our) guys played well.”
West Virginia Junior WR David Sills
On preparing for KU’s defensive line:
“We just tried to approach everyone the same, we didn’t prepare for them differently than any other team. They did well today, but we just had to go out there and do what we could.”

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