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Kansas Jayhawks stave off Indiana State Sycamores 24-17 in Les Miles’ debut

If you’re a Kansas Jayhawks fan and were hoping for games that won’t raise your blood pressure, you must not know Les Miles.

It took weathering a late storm from the Indiana State Sycamores, early struggles on offense and several other roadblocks, but KU picked up a 24-17 win over Indiana State on Saturday, opening the Miles era 1-0.

The Jayhawks led for most of the game, starting in the first quarter with a pick-six by senior cornerback Hasan Defense, intercepting a pass from Indiana State quarterback Ryan Boyle and sprinting up the home sideline for the score. KU led 10-0 and eventually 16-3 before the Sycamores started mounting their comeback.

Either by design or circumstance, it was a “bend, don’t break” defensive effort by Kansas, which eventually broke in the fourth quarter when Boyle completed a pass to a wide-open Dante Jones up the seam on fourth down for a touchdown. Later in the period, following a coffin-corner punt from the Sycamores and two unsuccessful runs, senior quarterback Carter Stanley fumbled on a sack in the end zone, which Indiana State recovered. An extra point gave ISU its first lead with 4:24 to play.

From that point forward, Stanley got a chance to prove Miles right in picking him to play in the opener. In just 2:04 of game time, Stanley led an eight-play, 75-yard drive for a touchdown, which included two catches each for senior wide receiver Daylon Charlot and junior Andrew Parchment. Charlot caught the decisive score, capping off a drive in which Stanley got to show off his arm like he rarely has during his college career.

The defense held serve on their last meaningful possession and the Jayhawks were able to send 32,000+ home happy with a win. It wasn’t a memorable game for quality of play, but Miles kept everything positive after the fact.

“I think the most important thing we can take from this is victory,” Miles said.

For Stanley’s part, he made the most of his first time opening the season as the starting quarterback, going 20-of-29 for 241 yards with two touchdowns. Despite a shaky start, which saw Stanley pass for just 44 yards and less than four yards per attempt in the opening half, Miles maintained confidence in the senior.

“We felt like his play early on was good, and [he] made some significant throws and our ability to move the football with him at quarterback was definitely a positive,” Miles said. “Was he perfect? Absolutely not, but he was good enough, and significantly a leader enough, to win.”

Stanley has more experience than any other quarterback on KU’s roster in terms of game action, but he also has plenty of experience in getting passed over for the starting role. After several years of being relegated to the second string or being rotated out of the lineup mid-game, consistency proved to be an instant benefit for him.

“That commitment means a lot to me,” Stanley said. “I think I have to continue to do some things to prove to them that I can handle those situations.”

Nobody knew whether Stanley or junior college transfer Thomas MacVittie would start until the former took the field on the first possession of the game. Even during the pregame introduction video it was kept a secret; both passers were announced as starters.

While the quarterback was the headline entering the game, the biggest story between the lines may have been Parchment, a somewhat unknown asset until recently, when he started receiving rave reviews from Miles and the coaching staff. That continued after the game when Miles was effusive with praise.

“Andrew Parchment, I thought, played lights out, and next time I see him I’m going to give him some MVP award, somehow,” Miles said.

Parchment got a chance to shine not only as a wide receiver, but also as a passer. He led the Jayhawks in receiving with eight catches for 121 yards and also threw for a two-point conversion late in the game.

“I was always begging coach Miles to give me a passing play this whole entire spring,” Parchment said, “So he just told me to be patient, be patient … I knew he was going to call it, I was just waiting for it and it happened to be that two-point conversion.”

Indiana State was able to take advantage of the aforementioned fourth-down lapse late, but it was a strong day overall from the Kansas defense, holding the Sycamores to just 10 offensive points and forcing a pair of turnovers. There’s no telling how the game could have looked different if the defense hadn’t played such a strong game, given the stagnant nature of the offense in the first half.

“Defensively, for three quarters, they had to play and make plays for the team with little support from the offense,” Miles said, “And they continued to make plays.”

That reliance on the defense wasn’t a shock to Defense, as the aptly named cornerback said after the game that his unit, specifically KU’s experienced and talented secondary, prepared to have an offense that may have some growing pains early this season.

“We know with a new offense [and] a new coaching staff on offense things weren’t going to be easy,” Defense said. “With us being such [an old] secondary or a more mature secondary … we just knew we had to play our roles, do our part and the offense was going to do their job at the end of the day.”

Miles left his stamp on the program immediately with Saturday’s win. From calling an aggressive final drive and showcasing his trademark penchant for taking risks with the two-point conversion trick play to his jovial attitude after the game, Week 1 featured most of the whole Les Miles experience.

He glowed about the Jayhawks’ effort after the game.

“It’s a start. It’s the start,” Miles said. “I’m excited, I can tell you that right now … I don’t know that I’ve enjoyed a group of men and a team and their effort any more than the one I have enjoyed with this team tonight.”

Kansas is now 13-4 in its last 17 season openers at home. In his career, Miles is now 13-4 in season openers.

The FBS opener for the Jayhawks is coming up next Saturday in Lawrence when the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers come to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. That game will also feature the season debut of sophomore running back Pooka Williams, who was suspended Week 1.

Click below to hear from Les Miles and the Jayhawks following their 24-17 win in Week 1 over Indiana State.

Les Miles press conference

Quarterback Carter Stanley

Wide receiver Andrew Parchment

Cornerback Hasan Defense

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