Inside Kansas Football’s History-Making Overtime Drive Against Texas
In toppling Texas 57-56 last weekend, Kansas football made history on several levels. Prior to Saturday, the program had never won in Austin. The Jayhawks’ 57 points were the most the team had ever scored in a road tilt. An away-from-home losing streak in conference play dating back to Oct. 4, 2008, ended.
Sixty minutes of frantic back-and-forth action weren’t enough to secure those milestones, though. Here’s a deep dive into the overtime session that gave head coach Lance Leipold and KU its walk-off win, as told by three of the players whose clutch performances made it happen:
Jared Casey, redshirt freshman fullback: Our strength coach, Matt Gildersleeve, talked about it all week and said it again before the game: “We’re not here to play, we’re here to win.” That was really the attitude on the sideline going into overtime. I don’t know if it should’ve gotten to that point. We had multiple opportunities that we let slip. But we were ready. We knew we were going to be in a battle. The emotions were high. We were all confident that we could do it.
Devin Neal, freshman running back: Chris Hughes deserves a ton of credit for keeping our spirits up on the sideline after we let that lead slip away in regulation. He just kept talking about battling adversity, “keep chopping wood.” We were going to get to where we wanted to be; he just kept making sure that we believed that. We actually just introduced a new award for our Mondays called Teammate of the Week, and I think Coach Leipold hit it on the head perfectly in picking Chris. I just love his dedication to this program.
KU wins the overtime coin toss and opts for the second possession of the period. It takes Texas just three plays to score a go-ahead touchdown, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by wide receiver Marcus Washington sets the Jayhawks up at the Longhorns’ 12-yard line. Texas kicks the extra point to go up 56-49, meaning it’s touchdown-or-bust for KU.
Jalon Daniels, sophomore quarterback: One thing Coach Leipold tells us is “E plus R equals O,” or the event plus your response is going to determine the outcome. How do you respond when adversity strikes? And I believe we did a great job responding to that adversity.
Neal rushes to the edge for a 3-yard gain on KU’s first play of overtime. Then, on second-and-7, Daniels throws a pass to the end zone that clanks off the hands of Texas’ Brenden Schooler. Instead of a game-ending interception, the ball falls harmlessly to the ground, giving the Jayhawks a new lease on life.
Daniels: We had man-to-man coverage outside, two receivers over there. It was a slant-and-go pattern. I believe the back shoulder to Trevor Wilson flashed open to me and I tried to get it in there. The Texas player, he made a great play. He was able to break on it. I’m honestly just relieved that he dropped it and we were given another chance to come out with a win.
Neal: All I saw was the ball on the ground and heard the “ooh’s” from the crowd. I just thought it was an incomplete pass from Jalon’s demeanor. He’s really big on flipping the page. If he makes a mistake, he might acknowledge it in his head for a second or two, but he always knows the next play is the most important. I really appreciate that about his leadership.
Daniels more than makes up for it on the next play, scrambling for seven yards on a third-and-7 that set his offense up with a first-and-goal from the Texas 2. The left side of the offensive line opened a big hole for Daniels to dart through, and Neal sprung a block near the sticks to ensure the quarterback gave the Jayhawks a fresh set of downs.
Daniels: I saw man coverage on that play as well. I motioned Trevor Wilson up the field and somebody was following him. That’s definitely a key indicator that it’s man coverage, and in that play, if it’s man and the throw isn’t there, it becomes a QB draw. Pump fake and get out of there. The offensive line created a great gap and I just followed Devin down the field.
Neal didn’t prolong the drive. His 2-yard touchdown plow on first-and-goal brought KU within a point and capped a brilliant evening that saw the Lawrence native pile up 144 rushing yards on 24 carries and score four total touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving).
Neal: They stacked the box. I just found the hole, put my head down and did my best to drive my knees and get into the end zone.
Daniels: Devin just turned 18. I was 17 going into last year, so I definitely know how it feels. He’s doing a great job as a young, incoming freshman, just handling all the pressure that comes his way. He doesn’t really show it. Talking to Devin Neal, you’ll see a very bright kid, definitely somebody who’s easy to talk to, doesn’t show any emotion besides how happy he is for everybody. He’s a gamer. When it’s time to make a play he’s going to make a play, and he’s always going to support everybody on this team. Definitely so proud of him.
Following Neal’s touchdown, it doesn’t take the KU sideline long to signal what’s next: a do-or-die two-point conversion attempt. A conversion would deliver history to the Jayhawks. A failed try would extend their losing streak to nine games.
Daniels: It’s actually crazy: After Devin crossed the goal line, I saw the officials’ hands go up and I’m just so happy. I honestly wasn’t even really thinking about what we were going to do next. I’m thinking, OK, kicker is about to come out here, kick an extra point, we’re about to take it into double overtime, defense is gonna stop ’em, let’s do this. I’m on my way to the sideline and my offense is still on the field and I’m like, uh, OK? I look at Coach Leipold and he’s saying, “Two, two, two!” I’m like, OK, let’s do it. It’s go-time. I’m never going to shy away from a game-winning opportunity.
Neal: I actually knew what we were going to do before we even ran our first play in overtime because I was standing next to Coach Leipold and he said, “If we score on this drive, we’re going to go for two.” So when I did score I had a calm reaction to it because I knew we were going to try to win the game. There was a timeout before that try, so the nerves did eventually set in.
KU comes out for the two-point try in a set that features two tight ends, including Casey, a walk-on from Plainville seeing his first collegiate action on offense due to an injury to Mason Fairchild earlier in the contest.
Casey: Right when I saw Mason go down I strapped my helmet up and went out in the huddle. I was ready. There was no hesitation. I’ve been preparing for this moment.
Daniels: Jared’s in my class. I didn’t know he was a walk-on until after our first year was over. So I’ve always had faith in Jared Casey because he’s always made miraculous catches in practice. When his time came in the game, he took advantage of it.
Daniels’ original read on the two-point try is to his two wide receivers, but immediate pressure from Texas’ Ovie Oghoufo forces the quarterback to scramble away from the wideouts. Daniels evades Oghoufo but has another Longhorn defender, Alfred Collins, barrelling toward him.
Daniels: I’m rolling out to the right, just looking for anybody that I can see open. As soon as I’m able to get past that defender that was coming my way, I just saw Jared Casey’s hands just up in the air, wide-open. I’m just like, all right, just make the throw. Make the throw. It doesn’t matter who’s in front of your face. You practice this throw. Make it.
Casey: Me and the other tight end had switched routes right before we went out there. The other route was a little longer and I’m a bigger guy, so I usually run the shorter routes.
Neal: Honestly, many people haven’t seen Jared Casey, but we have. Jared has made some phenomenal catches in practices, throughout fall camp. I had a strong feeling he was going to catch that ball no matter what. I’m super proud of that guy.
Casey: I’ve caught some pretty good one-handers throughout my whole career. I have some pretty big hands. They say I have the best hands on the team, but I’ll let them debate that. I don’t go out on a lot of routes, I’m more of a blocking guy, but I can definitely do it if they need me to.
Daniels unleashes the pass in Casey’s direction. It sails just over the outstretched hand of Texas’ Moro Ojomo and lands right in the waiting arms of Casey, who secures the ball and holds on through a hard hit from the Longhorns’ Tannahill Love. The two-point conversion is successful, and KU wins 57-56.
Casey: I knew I was going to get hit, but I wasn’t going to let go. Then the crowd went dead silent, besides the little pocket of Jayhawk fans in the corner — they were screaming. Our other tight end Trevor Kardell, he was the first one to approach me when I was on the ground. He started shaking me. And then Mike Novitsky jumped on me, and everyone just dog-piled on. It was a great feeling.
Daniels: If you want me to be honest with you, after I threw the ball, I couldn’t see Jared anymore. I didn’t know if he caught it or not. After I threw the ball I kept running to the sideline and I wasn’t hearing anything. Then I realized, this is not my home crowd, so if they’re not saying anything, that’s a good thing. I turn around and I’m just seeing everybody coming off of our sideline, just running into the field. I’m like, oh, he caught it? Let’s go! I’m just jumping around, so excited.
Neal: What stands out to me is after Jared made the catch, just seeing the mob of everyone come from the sideline. That was a really surreal moment for me. We talked about it before the game, what we wanted to do and how we wanted to celebrate afterward. To see it come true, it just meant the world.
Video Courtesy of the Casey family
After getting out of the dog pile, Casey gets knocked off his feet while performing a leaping celebration with teammate Jeremy Webb. Later, a video of Casey’s parents reacting to the two-point conversion and aftermath goes viral, amassing 1.2 million views as of Thursday morning.
Casey: I didn’t know Jeremy was going to jump so I went up late and he hit me right in the head with a shot and I fell over. I got right up. I wasn’t thinking. I was just running. Yeah, the guys have been giving me grief about it since then.
Casey: Every time I watch that video of my parents I get a little emotional, I get a little teary eyed. Just listening to my dad and hearing his voice, how proud he is, and my mom, she’s screaming real loud. It meant a lot. They’ve supported me since Day 1 in all my decisions, just taking a walk-on offer here at KU instead of a scholarship offer at a D-II or a juco. I can’t thank them enough for their support.
Neal, who became college football’s first true freshman since 2004 to run for 140-plus yards and at least three touchdowns while also accounting for 25-plus yards through the air and one receiving score, also has a bit of a viral moment. Postgame locker room footage shows an excited Neal trying to get ahold of his mom.
Neal: I did end up calling my mom, I FaceTimed her, and then I went out of the locker room to see Coach Leipold and our athletic director, Travis Goff. Me not even realizing what I’m doing, I’m showing my phone to Coach Leipold and Mr. Goff. Coach Leipold takes my phone, he’s smiling and really happy talking to my mom — or trying to. Honestly it was so loud that I wasn’t even able to converse with my mom, so I just told her I’d call her in a second. And we get back into the locker room and everyone’s dancing, the music’s loud. It was a super awesome moment.
On the field, Leipold tells Daniels he’s proud of him for staying ready and rising to meet the moment. Making his first start of the season, Daniels went 21-for-30 passing for 202 yards and three touchdowns, adding 11 carries for 48 yards and a score. He sports a wide smile throughout the entirety of a postgame interview with ESPN.
Daniels: I go up and I’m already almost in tears before I even get to the camera. I’m just so proud. Everything happened so quickly for me, it was just crazy. My interview, I really just spoke from the heart, how I felt at that moment. I was so proud of everybody. So proud of our defense for showing grit on the field, knowing we weren’t going to give up. We’re not who you think that we are. You can look at us as just KU, but in this building, we’re building KU, and you’re going to know exactly who KU is within the next few years. I believe this program is just at the beginning of what it can be.
Neal: I’ve known Jalon since before I even signed. Knowing the type of guy he is, he’s truly special. He has a bright future. He’s really charismatic. I wasn’t even surprised to see him do what he did on Saturday because he’s prepared that way and he knew what he was destined to do.
Daniels, Neal, Casey and the Jayhawks will next take on TCU at 3 p.m. Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas, before wrapping their season with a 6 p.m. Nov. 27 matchup against West Virginia at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
Daniels: This win can definitely be a building block, but we don’t want to think of it that way. Win or lose, we just want to build momentum off how we played. It’s definitely something to be able to build off of, but we don’t want to look at us beating Texas as just another stepping stone. We just want to build our program to be able to say we beat more than Texas. We want to say we beat Oklahoma, we beat Oklahoma State. We want to be able to beat and compete with some of the top teams in the Big 12.
Neal: We really needed that win to propel us forward. The one thing we’ve got to keep true to is just that it is just one win. We have to have a sustained ability to keep winning games. We’ve just got to keep listening, stay focused, keep winning and do what we want to do, and that’s win Big 12 championships.
Casey: We’re staying grounded just by knowing how important these next two games are. They’re really huge for our program and for this university to carry this momentum on. It would be so huge if we went down to Fort Worth and got a win at TCU. We’ve just got to keep going, keep believing in ourselves, keep believing in one another, believing in the coaching staff and knowing that this culture and this program is getting turned around. Just be patient with us, because it will happen.