July 20, 2024

Jayhawks snap losing streak at Jack Trice after outlasting Cyclones

Kansas Jayhawks Football

Kansas running back Devin Neal celebrates with teammates after a six-yard touchdown run during the first quarter against Iowa State Saturday November 4, 2023 at Jack Trice Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

AMES, Ia. — Kansas had lost its’ last seven trips to Jack Trice Stadium prior to Saturday night, but Coach Lance Leipold made it his top priority to change that narrative.

After all, the Jayhawks were prepared for the hostile environment, invaded the packed venue of 61,500 and left with a 28-21 victory. Everyone knows it’s tough to beat the Cyclones at home under the lights, especially when they’re wearing black. However, none of that mattered, as the Jayhawks drew first blood, and never trailed throughout the contest.

Within a blink of an eye, Kansas (7-2) jumped out to a 14-point lead on Iowa State, after a touchdown run by running back Devin Neal, and a 50-yard interception return by cornerback Mello Dotson. The No. 21 Jayhawks never looked back, and were up by 18 points midway through the third quarter. Although Matt Campbell’s Cyclones were scrappy and battled back, Leipold thought his squad played inspired, and made plays on both sides of the ball.

“This team keeps chipping away at knocking down barriers, and things that haven’t been done in our program for a long time, and I can’t say how proud I am of them,” Leipold said. “A tough place to play, Matt has a heck of a team, and it was a good football game.”

The naysayers thought Kansas would have a hangover from the big victory over Oklahoma. Leipold put his players through an intense week of practice though, and it all paid off on the gridiron. The Jayhawks scored a touchdown in each quarter of the game. Not to mention Kansas led Iowa State (5-4) in plays, total offense and time of possession. Most importantly, the Jayhawks didn’t turn the ball over.

Quarterback Jason Bean completed 14 of his 23 passes for 287 yards. None was bigger than his 80-yard touchdown strike to wideout Lawrence Arnold in the fourth quarter. Kansas couldn’t gain any traction on the ground against Jon Heacock’s defense. The Jayhawks finished with a season-low, 74 rushing yards. Still, Neal ended up with two rushing scores, and that turned out to be the difference.

Leipold vividly remembers his first trip to Ames as Kansas’ coach, and that resulted in a 59-7 blowout loss. Which is why he wanted to show how far the program has come since that whipping. Leipold kept his foot on the gas for his players, staff and the fans.

“A lot of these guys are the same guys that were here, and they been through it,” he said. “Now with strength, experience, confidence and some wins they were able to do those things.”

Kansas snapped Iowa State’s three-game winning streak, but couldn’t have done it without the stellar play from Brian Borland’s defense. Linebacker Rich Miller tallied a team-high, eight tackles, including one for loss and a sack. Cornerback Kwinton Lassiter also generated eight stops. Dotson returned an interception for a touchdown for a second-straight week.

The Jayhawks are still struggling in the kicking department though. Seth Keller missed a field goal in the first quarter, and Owen Piepergerdes couldn’t connect on a 50-yarder in the second. That’s an issue Leipold plans on keeping an eye on as his team navigates through the Big 12 meat-grinder.

Kansas is now in second place in the conference standings, behind a tied Texas and Oklahoma State. Leipold believes his team is maturing, and continues to get better in different areas each game. That’s obvious, considering Kansas has secured its’ first winning campaign, and victory at Jack Trice Stadium since 2008. This should boost the Jayhawks’ momentum, and Leipold feels the best is yet to come for his players.

“A battle of two teams that played hard and physical, and we were able to pull through in the end.”