The Jayhawks won 56-10 over Tennessee Tech

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) There have been many years when Kansas has struggled to beat teams from the Football Championship Subdivision to open the season, and second-year coach Lance Leipold is well aware of that fact.

Maybe that’s why he didn’t mince words when it came to evaluating a 56-10 rout of Tennessee Tech on Friday night.

”You play who’s on the schedule and go from there. It’s a must-win game by that margin and we did that,” Leipold said. ”We know this program hasn’t had enough wins to be overly critical of how it plays.”

There wasn’t much to be critical of the Golden Eagles.

Jalon Daniels threw for 182 yards with a touchdown on the ground and through the air before giving way to backup Jason Beane, who added a TD run of his own. Devin Neal took a handoff 80 yards for a score and finished with 108 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Nebraska transfers Sevion Morrison and Daniel Hishaw also reached the end zone.

Kansas even got a 61-yard punt return by Jacobee Bryant after a blocked field goal that set the tone early.

“We talked about getting confidence and this team didn’t have a lot of that,” said Leipold, whose team amassed 297 rushing yards and 502 total yards. “This is definitely a step in the right direction.”

The Jayhawks’ revamped defense was just as good: Golden Eagles starter Jeremiah Oatsvall was just 10-of-18 passing for 76 yards with a TD and an interception. The Jayhawks held Tennessee Tech to 93 yards rushing on 43 carries.

“I told our guys, ‘We played the best football team we’ve played all year,'” Golden Eagles coach Dewayne Alexander said. ”There were some things we’re going to show a lot of improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, but our guys battled.

After more than a decade of nearly everything going wrong, the Jayhawks must have felt good about a first half — albeit against a lower-tier opponent — in which nearly everything went right.

Daniels connected on 14 of 15 passes for 182 yards, scoring on an 11-yard run in the second quarter before passing to Mason Fairchild for a 2-yard score. Three different Jayhawks reached the end zone on the ground. And when Bryant took that block late in the first quarter and returned it 61 yards for a score, Kansas had its first touchdown since Patrick Brown did it against Oklahoma in 1996.

Perhaps most importantly, the Jayhawks’ rebuilt defense shut down the Golden Eagles.

Kansas went three-and-out on Tennessee Tech’s first two possessions and then blocked the field goal on the next. And after Tennessee Tech finally converted the 21-3 field goal, the Jayhawks forced two more three-and-outs.

The second half was not as clean for Kansas. Daniels nearly fumbled the ball away on its first possession before Jacob Borcilla missed a 40-yard field goal attempt, and then the Jayhawks quarterback threw a pick on his next snap.

But the Golden Eagles missed a chip-shot field goal attempt of their own, and on the Jayhawks’ next offensive play, Neal split the defense down the right sideline and raced untouched 80 yards for the score.

“We executed at a high level,” Neal said. “Obviously we made mistakes. I will never be satisfied. But where we compare to last year, it’s night and day.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Tennessee Tech: The Golden Eagles were pressured at the line of scrimmage while making too many mistakes on special teams. The tight end was the big one, but Devin Parker’s 29-yard miss in the second half hardly helped.

Kansas: The Jayhawks revamped their defense with an influx of Division I transfers, and several made a difference. Lonnie Phelps, a rusher from Miami-Ohio, had three sacks and four tackles for loss. Former Ohio State linebacker Craig Young has always been close to the ball. And Central Florida transfer Eriq Gilyard caught a pass early in the fourth quarter.

NEXT

Tennessee Tech: The Golden Eagles play their home opener on Sept. 10 against Texas A&M-Commerce.

Kansas: The Jayhawks visit West Virginia on Sept. 10 for their Big 12 opener.

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