After feeding on all those cupcake opponents in the non-conference schedule, there was a bit of mystery regarding the legitimacy of Kansas’ undefeated start.
Backed by Todd Reesing’s 267-yard, three-TD performance, the Jayhawks marched into Manhattan with something to prove and came away with a 30-24 victory over K-State on Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium.
It was the Jayhawks’ first win in the Little Apple since 1989. With so many doubts surrounding this year’s team – much of it a result of having one of the worst strength of schedules in the nation – the victory caught at least a few people by surprise.
The Jayhawks, of course, saw it coming all along.
“What more can we say?” said wide receiver Dexton Fields, whose 30-yard TD reception with 6:27 left gave Kansas a 27-24 lead. “We were doubted this whole time, but we knew we were gonna give it to them.”
It was all high fives and fist pumps on the Kansas sideline as the final seconds ticked away. When they ran off the field, they were greeted by a gathering of Jayhawk fans near the south end zone.
The celebration continued more than 30 minutes later as the team boarded the bus.
“We’ve got guys that want to win, and we’re gonna win,” said running back Jake Sharp, who scored the Jayhawks’ first TD with a 20-yard rush in the second quarter. “I read in some paper that we were themost overrated undefeated team or something. We don’t take that lightly.”
The Jayhawks played sloppy in the first half, as Reesing threw a pair of interceptions and misfired on several of his early pass attempts.
“When he was struggling, we weren’t worried,” said fullback Brandon McAnderson. “That was the first time I’ve really seen him struggle, but he was like, ‘I’m alright. We got this.'”
Reesing went 10 of 15 for 150 yards and a pair of TDs in the second half, as K-State’s defense couldn’t get off the field.
“We couldn’t stop the running game when we needed to, and we definitely couldn’t stop the passing game in the red zone,” said K-State’s Chris Carney, who had a pair of interceptions. “We shut them down, and then we kind of let it go.”
Leading 21-17 in the fourth quarter, the Jayhawks came out throwing on 1st-and-10 from their own 14-yard line. Reesing threw a pass to Fields out in the flats, but rather than hitting his hands, the ball deflected off his helmet.
The ball hung in the air for a few seconds, just long enough for Carney to intercept the pass. Five plays later, the Wildcats had the lead at 24-21 on senior Deon Murphy’s TD catch.
Fields, watching helplessly on the sideline, knew all he needed was a shot at redemption.
“All I said was, ‘God, give me another chance to make it up,'” Fields said. “I couldn’t let my team down like that.”
His chance came on the ensuing possession. On a 3rd-and-1 play from the K-State 30-yard line, he caught the ball in stride across the middle of the field and raced into the end zone.
K-State (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) had two more possessions to try and take the lead, but both drives ended with Josh Freeman interceptions.
“We weren’t able to do it,” Freeman said.
The Wildcats led by seven points on two separate occasions in the first half. Jordy Nelson found the end zone first with a 68-yard touchdown reception – a leap and grab over Kansas’ Aqib Talib – on K-State’s second possession of the game.
But the Jayhawks scored late in the first half to tie the score at 14 and increased the lead midway through the third quarter on Dezmon Briscoe’s 28-yard touchdown reception.
Kansas is now 5-0 for the first time since 1995.