How big was this game for Kansas? I don’t think you can put into words how big it was. If the Jayhawks were going to lose, the hope was that they would play well and give Boston College a game. The line was Boston College -21.5. If Kansas could stay within that it could have been considered a success if there were some positive things from the team. The win, and especially how dominant the win was, is huge for Les Miles and the Jayhawks.
Les Miles arrived with a clear intention to change how the Kansas football program felt about itself. He has constantly talked about how good the players are and how they will play dominant football. Nobody other than maybe Les thought we would see that this year. It was more of a long-term goal. But Friday night the Jayhawks did something they had not done since 2008. They won a road game against a Power 5 school.
Kansas fans should enjoy this one but remember that this doesn’t mean things are fixed. They did after all just lose at home to Coastal Carolina 12-7. But this could be a huge step forward for the team. The offensive play calls were drastically different than the first two games and that made all the difference.
The win should help draw a larger crowd for their Big 12 opener at home next weekend against West Virginia. The players have to have more confidence in each other. In some ways this makes next week’s game an even bigger one. Expectations will be higher for what could be the Jayhawks’ best chance for a conference win.
Player of the Game:
Several players could be chosen for the Player of the Game and I’m giving it to two this time: Carter Stanley and Khalil Herbert.
Carter Stanley struggled a lot in the Jayhawks’ first two games and especially in the loss to Coastal Carolina. On top of all of that, he threw a bad interception on the second play from scrimmage fin this game. But somehow Stanley stayed calm and turned his season around in a big way.
Stanley started making quality throws. He hit receivers in stride for large gains. He squeezed passes to receivers where there didn’t appear to be a window through which to throw. Stanley finished the game 20-for-27 for 238 yards passing and three touchdowns and just the one early interception.
Stanley gained a ton of confidence in this game. Just as important, if not more important, Carter Stanley’s teammates gained a ton of confidence in him. Receivers know that if they can get open Stanley can hit them in a position in which they can gain yards after the catch. The entire team knows that he can lead them to victory. This might have become Carter Stanley’s team on Friday night.
Khalil Herbert had a better statistical game than Stanley even though Stanley’s game might have been more important for the team. Herbert had 187 yards rushing on just 11 carries. His longest run was an 82-yard sprint right before halftime to set up a huge touchdown for Kansas.
Herbert doesn’t seem to be especially fast or elusive like Pooka Williams, but looks can be deceiving sometimes. Herbert was terrific reading the holes and when one opened up he flew threw it and didn’t go to the ground on initial contact. His cuts appear to be slow when you watch him but they obviously are not if you are on the field because defenders were not able to stay with him.
Often there is one point in the game that is a clear turning point to look to as to when a team took control on their way to victory. I would argue that this game had two critical moments that turned the game in favor of the Jayhawks.
The first moment came early in the first quarter. Boston College pushed Kansas around on the first possession of the game on its way to an easy touchdown drive. Kansas could not stop running back AJ Dillion. He ran through the defense with ease and eventually scored a touchdown to put the Eagles up 7-0. Two plays into Kansas’ first possession Carter Stanley threw an interception. The Kansas defense held Boston College to a field goal and Kansas was down 10-0 less than four minutes into the game.
After each team punted on their next possession and Kansas looking very fragile, the Jayhawks went on an eight play, 78-yard drive finished off with a 19 yard touchdown pass from Carter Stanley to Jack Luavasa. The win kept the Jayhawks in the game and was the start of the confidence building for Stanley.
Kansas started rolling on offense and finally took the lead with 3:41 left in the first half. The lead wouldn’t last long as Boston College added another touchdown with just 45 seconds left in the half to take a 24-21 lead. It was a demoralizing drive for Kansas. When Kansas got the ball on its own 15 with 45 seconds left in the half it looked like Les Miles was satisfied to run out the clock and look forward to receiving the opening kickoff in the second half. Instead, Khalil Herbert broke the first of several long runs on the night and took the ball 82 yards down to the Boston College 3 yard line with 20 seconds left in the half. Kansas punched the ball into the end zone on a Stanley to Andrew Parchment pass and the Jayhawks were back on top at the half.
This touchdown right before the half just skyrocketed the Jayhawks’ confidence. Kansas scored on its first three possessions of the second half to take control of the game.
Jay Dineen made some plays that had Kansas fans thinking his brother Joe was still in school. Dineen was aggressive attacking the run game. Although he had just four tackles in the game, three of them were solo tackles and one was a tackle for loss. Jay, a sophomore, was impressive.
Dru Prox keeps showing up on this list. He led the team in tackles once again with ten. Six of those tackles were solo tackles. Dru has a great feel for the game and Friday was no exception. He moves to where the ball is going instead of where it is and does so quickly. When he gets to the ball carrier he doesn’t miss and he brings the man to the ground. Dru did all of that once again in this game.
What can you say about Andrew Parchment? Carter Stanley loves throwing to him and you can see why. Parchment gets open and when the ball is anywhere around him he usually makes the catch. Oh, and he can run with the ball after the catch. In this game he had 8 receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior receiver Kwamie Lassiter also had a big game. He had five receptions for 67 yards. Lassiter got open in big situations and when Stanley threw the ball his way he held on to it.
Room for Improvement:
This might be getting awfully picky, but Kansas needs to start games with the confidence and play it found after its first touchdown in this game. Understandably the team did not have a reason to be real confident after losing at home to Coastal Carolina. Hopefully the team now has that confidence.
I can’t think of one thing to second guess in this game. This was about as perfect a game as Kansas can play right now.
The best decision in this game was Les Miles’ decision to stick with Carter Stanley at quarterback after he was intercepted on the Jayhawks’ second play from scrimmage. It would have been understandable if Miles had decided to switch to Thomas MacVittie after how Stanley struggle last game and immediately made a terrible decision in this game. But Miles appears to be all about building confidence in his players. He did that by sticking with Carter Stanley and it paid off in this game. This decision could play a huge role in the success of the team for the rest of the season.
The Jayhawks head home for their Big 12 opener next Saturday against West Virginia. This will be a huge game for Kansas. It’s their best chance to win a Big 12 game. Although Kansas dominated this game, they are still likely to finish at or near the bottom of the Big 12. A loss to West Virginia would be concerning for how they might do in the conference. A win over West Virginia would pile on more confidence and could give the team what it needs to win more conference games than anyone expected prior to this game.