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Kansas Jayhawks earn first Big 12 win under Les Miles following comeback, bizarre finish

Kansas Jayhawks junior kicker Liam Jones knows better than anyone in America right now that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

The oft-maligned placekicker had to be gifted a second chance at the end of Saturday night’s game, but he ended up fulfilling the role of game-ending hero in KU’s 37-34 upset win over Texas Tech.

The Jayhawks had to fight from behind all game to even have a chance to win. Kansas trailed 17-0 midway through the second quarter, then went on a 34-17 run just to tie the game. After a key defensive stop and a 10-play, 70-yard drive led by senior quarterback Carter Stanley, Jones lined up for a 40-yard field goal attempt with 16 seconds to play.

Jones had struggled in recent weeks and even earlier on in Saturday’s contest, when he had a kick blocked after KU’s third touchdown of the game.

Those struggles continued on the attempted game winner, which was also block. Texas Tech recovered the ball and tried to advance it downfield. Senior defensive back Douglas Coleman had the ball fully possessed and ran to his left, but when he ran out of room he tried pitching the ball back to a teammate to keep the play alive.

Nobody was behind him to receive the pitch. Instead, the ball bounced back toward the north end zone, and Kansas junior long snapper Logan Klusman was there to recover it.

“I thought, basically, they wanted to score real bad, I knew that when the ball hit the ground and we got it that the timeout had to be the next thing and we had to hurry up,” coach Les Miles said about the bizarre lateral to no one. “And then we found out there’s another kick available, which he hit right down the middle.”

Jones buried his second try from 32 yards out as time expired, giving Kansas the win.

Despite his struggles so far this season, Jones said that Miles and coaching staff have continued to build his confidence. Miles tried to lift his spirits before the final kick.

“I went over to him and I said, ‘OK, I won’t let you kick unless you smile,'” Miles said. “And he said ‘I’m going to make this one,’ and he did.”

Miles instilled confidence in the Jayhawks’ kicker, but joked after the game that he still couldn’t watch the second try.

“I didn’t see it go through, I had my eyes closed,” Miles said.

Stanley led what was effectively the game-winning drive and posted some of the best numbers of his career in the victory, but the senior passer didn’t get off to a positive start against the Red Raiders. The Jayhawks started the game with the ball, but on their first play Stanley underthrew a deep ball into double coverage and had it picked off.

Like he has throughout most of the season, though, he bounced back and helped piece together another strong effort for the Kansas offense.

He finished 26-37 passing for 415 yards, the second-highest single-game total of his career, with three touchdown passes and the interception. Stanley is now three touchdown passes short of tying David Jaynes for the second most in program history.

In last week’s loss to Texas, a lot was made of Stanley distributing the ball to nine different receivers. He only found six different targets this week, but those who caught the lion’s share of passes made most of the game’s biggest plays.

The top receiver for the Jayhawks was junior Stephon Robinson, who finished with six catches for 186 yards, a new career high, and two touchdowns. That marks three games in a row with three touchdown grabs for Robinson.

The other 100-yard receiver for Kansas in Week 9 was junior Andrew Parchment, who hauled in seven receptions for 109 yards and a score. Parchment offered some perspective on the victory and seeing fans rush the field after the fact, saying that he was happy the fans in attendance were able to experience a win.

Saturday night was the first Big 12 win for Miles, but also the first win as the Kansas offensive coordinator for Brent Dearmon. In his first two games on the job, Dearmon’s group has put up gaudy numbers. They Jayhawks have averaged 42.5 points and 528 total yards per game in that short stretch.

Parchment said that this is now the norm for Kansas football.

“Coach Dearmon is for real, this offense is for real,” Parchment said.

Dearmon’s impact hasn’t been lost on Miles, either. After the game the coach acknowledged how different and how much better the offense has looked since Dearmon took over the offense.

“What he’s meant to us is he’s put us with an opportunity to make our most talented kids efficient and allowed them to play great roles in our success,” Miles said.

While the record for the Jayhawks looks reminiscent of years past to this point (Kansas hasn’t won more than three games in a season since 2009), the attitude and on-field performance is noticeably different. Even after tough losses, and there have been a couple this year for KU, the team has generally been able to come out and be competitive the next week. In this instance, it was following a crushing road loss to Texas with a conference win at home. Miles said that he believes there’s no reason to doubt the resiliency of this year’s Jayhawks.

“You wonder about the resiliency of this team, and there’s no reason to,” Miles said. “Now they’ve put themselves in a position to play the back end of this season for something very significant.”

That “something significant” is a bowl game, something that Kansas hasn’t reached in over a decade. The odds aren’t likely this year, either, needing three wins in four games with only two home games in that stretch. Still that hasn’t dampened the outlook and confidence for Kansas.

Stanley was asked if a bowl game is still within reach.

“Yeah, 100%” Stanley said.

Before the Jayhawks can think that far ahead they need to take care of business next week at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in this year’s edition of the Sunflower Showdown against Kansas State. The Wildcats picked up an upset win of their own this week, downing the fifth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners in Manhattan. Both teams will head into that matchup with confidence, something Miles continues to exude.

“We have a good team,” Miles said. “We just need to play consistently that way for any length of time and we’ll be very happy.”

Click below to hear what Les Miles and the Jayhawks had to say after Kansas’ 37-34 win over Texas Tech:

Les Miles – press conference

Carter Stanley

Liam Jones

Stephon Robinson

Andrew Parchment

Logan Klusman


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