LAWRENCE, Kan. (KU) - Late defensive heroics by senior lineman Keyshaun Simmons proved to be the game changer in Kansas' 27-26 victory over TCU inside David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
As time was winding down in the fourth quarter, TCU was in the red zone with a chance to score a game-winning touchdown when Simmons recovered a TCU fumble, giving KU the ball and securing its victory.
On the opening drive of the game, Kansas traveled 75 yards on 11 plays to score its first touchdown of the day. The scoring drive marked the first time that KU had a lead during conference play this season.
KU's defense has been its strength all season, and that showed once again in the first quarter when the Jayhawks stalled TCU's drive at the one-yard line on fourth-and-goal with less than three minutes in the opening stanza. KU's defense held a potent TCU offense to only 10 points in the first half, marking only the second time this season that TCU has 10 or less points in the first half. Both of the teams traded scores throughout the whole game, with eight different lead changes before KU pulled out ahead.
Two good kicks by senior Gabriel Rui in the second half gave KU a 20-17 edge, which marks the first time in conference play that the Jayhawks have led the game during the second half. TCU reclaimed the lead on a Michael Collins touchdown with 10:38 to play.
The Jayhawks answered, with Pooka Williams Jr. capping a nine-play 79-yard drive with a 28-yard touchdown catch from senior quarterback Peyton Bender. It was the late touchdown by KU that pushed the Jayhawks ahead of TCU and they didn't relinquish the lead.
HEAD COACH DAVID BEATY // Complete David Beaty Quotes
Q. There are many, many, many reasons why I don't coach, and the final seven seconds would epitomize that. What was the thinking in trying to run out the clock there and the decision that went into kind of getting that one down towards zero?
DAVID BEATY: Obviously, we knew there was going to be -- we thought there was going to be five seconds left on the clock. We felt we could get that off pretty safely with the call that we've already had built into what we do. We might have been able to kill that last second had we thrown the ball a little bit higher than what we did.
You know what, those kids executed exactly like we taught it, which gave us a chance there. And I thought Coach Perry had his guys ready to go to cover that onside there to where there was no real chance for them to pitch the ball back. They had to secure it and get down, and that's the way we were able to seal it.
Q. How were you able to change things offensively in the second half? Got that first drive to start the game, couldn't get much going. Then in the second half, I think you scored, except for the final possession, scored on every possession.
DAVID BEATY: They had made some adjustments, which, man, he is -- first of all, they did a terrific job. Either team could have won that game. He is a really good coach, man, and he did a really good job of mixing it up. He went to a little more pressure.
We came in and talked a little bit about what our plan was, and really just the plan handled it all, and we were just able to come in and just apply the plan and not necessarily have to get out of what we do. We went ahead in that second half and converted two key goals that we have. Number one, get a three and out. We were able to do that and get them off the field and nullify them getting the ball in the second half.
And the next thing was going in and scoring on that first drive. We haven't done that this year. That set the tone. Those two drives on both offense and defense set the phone for the rest of the game and gave us a chance.
Q. Peyton Bender, a lot more efficient today. I don't think as big a play as that run on third down where he goes for 11, ducks his head down, takes a hit, and gets the first down, that's as big a play as he'll have.
DAVID BEATY: Watching him, knowing what he was staring down the barrel of and just knowing that he knew he had to get it done and go get that first down, I couldn't be more proud of a kid. He's a guy that's taken a lot of criticism along the way, and there's a reason why we stick with him. We believe in him. We know he's got some real ability. He made as good a play as I've seen him make since he's been here when he scrambled and got the ball down there to Pooka for that touchdown in the third quarter.
I just can't say enough about him. I thought he did a terrific job of keeping us in the game and understanding the game plan
KANSAS PLAYER QUOTES // Complete KU Player Quotes
Keith Loneker Jr. // Senior Linebacker
On the interception:
"I could tell reading the QB, he kept his eyes out. I took No. 2's pass and could tell he's timid, so I trusted my instincts. He threw it to me so that helped out too. Luckily I got that one."
On the defense:
"So much intensity. Our guys were buying into in practice because we turned up the intensity. We worked with Coach Bowen all week.
On the big turnover in the 4th quarter and the challenge:
"KeyShaun (Simmons) did a great job jumping on the ball there. Those are huge points and it was so much fun. I was so stressed when they looked at the monitor. We said a lot of prayers and we were pretty happy we got it."
Stephon Robinson Jr. // Sophomore Wide Receiver
What turned around the offense in the second half:
"We're just real resilient, when things did not go our way, we just pushed and grinded. We followed the game plan with what we had to do and that is what got us this victory."
On the team's ability to convert third downs:
"That just shows our hard work in practice. We do well on third downs and that is what helped us win the game."
On the play of Peyton Bender:
"Clutch, he made big plays when we needed them, big ups to him as he was the player of the game."
Complete TCU Coach Quotes // Complete TCU Player Quotes
NOTABLES // Complete Postgame Notes
With a tackle-for-loss assist in the fourth quarter, Dineen moves into sole possession in Kansas history for career tackles-for-loss with 41.5.
Senior defensive tackle Keyshaun Simmons recovered his first career fumble on TCU's final drive of the game.
Williams Jr. set career highs in both receptions (seven) and receiving yards (102) in the game. It is his first career game with over 100 yards receiving in his young career, and he is the first running back to have over 100 receiving yards in a game since Tony Pierson did it against Texas Tech in 2013 (Oct. 5).
With 27 receiving yards on the day, senior Steven Sims Jr. moved into sole possession of second place on the Kansas career receiving yards list. He now sits at 2,336 yards in his career.
Senior linebacker Keith Loneker Jr. recorded his first career interception deep in TCU territory in the third quarter.
Loneker's interception marks the 11th Jayhawk with a pick this season (Hasan Defense, Jeremiah McCullough, Shakial Taylor, Mike Lee, Elmore Hempstead Jr., Joe Dineen Jr., Bryce Torneden, Ricky Thomas, Corione Harris and Davon Ferguson). That is the most individual players with an interception in a season since 2007, that team finished with 23 total picks on the year.
In the first five minutes of the first quarter, the Jayhawks struck first with a 58-yard scoring drive to open the game and give KU the lead, 7-0.
Freshman running back Pooka Williams Jr. regained the lead for KU in the third quarter with his first career touchdown reception, a 7-yard pass from Bender.
In the third quarter, senior kicker Gabriel Rui tied the game, 17-17, with a 34-yard field goal.
Rui added a 27-yard field goal to open up the fourth quarter, giving KU a 20-17 lead.
With 6:13 remaining in the fourth quarter, Williams connected with Bender on 28-yard touchdown reception to give KU a late 27-24 lead.
With TCU in the red zone, senior defensive lineman Keyshaun Simmons forced a fumble, giving KU the ball in the final minute of the game.
Kansas will host Iowa State for its annual Salute to Service game on Saturday, Nov. 3. Game time is slated for 11 a.m., with a live broadcast on FOX Sports Net.