May 24, 2024

Rich Miller enjoying Jayhawks’ surge in Big 12 under Lance Leipold

Kansas Jayhawks Football

Kansas linebacker Rich Miller Jr., (30) tackles Iowa State quarterback Rocco Becht during the third quarter Saturday November 4, 2023 at Jack Trice Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

AMES, Ia. — The veteran linebacker is one of a few players on the roster that followed Coach Lance Leipold from Buffalo to Kansas.

Rich Miller has been instrumental in the Jayhawks’ recent success with his experience, leadership and production. It’s hard to argue against that when Miller has finished second on the team in tackles in each of the past two seasons. Not to mention he’s currently No. 2 on the team with 43 stops this fall, and has 216 as a Jayhawk.

The former three-star prospect is coming off a stellar performance in the road victory over Iowa State. Miller tied a team-high, with eight tackles, including five solo, one for loss and a sack. He helped Kansas’ defense set the tone early on, and they were able to dictate the flow of the game. The Jayhawks even held the Cyclones scoreless in the first quarter, and limited Matt Campbell’s team to 258 total yards, which was a season-low for them in Big 12 play.

Winning at Jack Trice Stadium for the first time since 2008 is huge for the program, and means a lot to Miller. After all, he experienced that 59-7 blowout in Ames back in 2021, and was determined to change the narrative this time around.

“It means a lot because we came a long way, and all of that hard work is showing off,” Miller said. “The game went down to the wire, and we came out on top, so we got to be doing a little something right.”

Miller never got rattled on the sideline when Iowa State stormed back and pulled within three points in the third quarter. Instead Miller kept his cool, as well as his teammates, and didn’t let the crowd of 61,500 knock them off their game. In his mind the Jayhawks showed determination, which will go a long way down the road.

“We’ve been there before, we already know how to handle it, and we didn’t flinch,” he said. “That’s all we talk about is not flinching, so we did everything we needed to do, and played the same ball we been playing all day, just had to turn it up a little bit.”

The defense made several plays too. Cornerback Mello Dotson returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown. Linebacker Craig Young, and cornerback Cobee Bryant tallied two tackles for loss apiece. Once the smoke cleared, Iowa State’s offense finished with a mere 75 yards on the ground.

Miller heard all of the critics and their predictions on the game, in which several of them thought Kansas would suffer a hangover after the upset win over Oklahoma. It only motivated them more though, so Miller was glad the Jayhawks came out and made a statement against the Cyclones.

“Probably the rest of the games we go in we’re going to be underdogs, so we’re not focusing on that,” the Detroit native said. “Keep on making us underdogs and we’re going to keep proving you wrong, it feels like they still don’t believe in us, so they just keep making that chip on our shoulders way bigger.”

Every season under Leipold Kansas is breaking down barriers. The Jayhawks made a bowl game last year, are nationally ranked in year three, and just secured their first winning campaign since 2008. That’s light years ahead of when the team was the laughing stock of the Big 12 prior to Leipold’s arrival. Miller feels the program’s success is a testament to the foundation Leipold has cemented in Lawrence.

Most importantly, the No. 20 Jayhawks are alive and well in the Big 12 race with three games left on the slate. Miller feels the best is yet to come, and wants to keep proving the doubters wrong as Kansas (7-2) prepares to finish strong down the stretch.

“I appreciate everybody who don’t believe in us, and I appreciate everybody that’s adding that fuel to our fire, because we’re going to keep on going.”