Kansas football is back ladies and gentlemen, as the Jayhawks started their 2017 campaign this evening at Memorial Stadium against the Redhawks of Southeast Missouri State. After ending last year at home with a senior night win over the Texas Longhorns, Kansas now has their first two game winning streak at home since 2011.
The first drive of the game for both teams showed exactly how the story line would be for the first game of the season. SE Missouri State won the toss and elected to receive, however their opening drive was short lived, as KU was able to force a three and out. Peyton Bender, the newly acquired junior college quarterback, made his first start tonight and he responded to the hype very well. On what looked to be a bust of a first drive for Kansas, on third down the junior Steven Sims Jr. and his new quarterback Bender, turned a short slant route into a 77 yard touchdown just under three minutes into the game. Sims—last years leading receiver— made a nice cut past some SEMO defenders and had nothing but green in front of him for his first catch and touchdown of the season.
The offense wasn’t the only threat that KU posed toward SEMO in the 1st quarter. Dorrance Armstrong began his campaign as a defensive all-American getting his first sack of the season as he took down Jesse Hosket. On their second offensive drive of the game, Bender and the Jayhawks stormed down the field using a mix of pass and rush to find themselves in the red zone for the first time. Chase Harrell’s number was called and Bender found him in the end zone as Harrell made a spectacular one-handed catch to put Kansas up 14-0 to end the first quarter.
During the second quarter, Payton Bender had his first hiccup as he threw his first interception in a KU uniform. SEMO would go on to convert on the turnover as Hosket found Trevon Billington for a 9-yard touchdown that pulled them within seven. Bender and the Jayhawks would bounce back and go 52 yards in three plays as Bender for the second time in the end zone to regain the fourteen point lead. KU would go on to lead at halftime 21-7, as the 2008 Orange bowl championship team was honored at midfield.
Kansas was unable to take advantage of their first possession coming out for the second half. SEMO was able to sneak in a field goal to cut the deficit to eleven. However, the Jayhawks were able to get back into form quick as Dom Williams scored his first rushing touchdown of the season on a 10 yard score. Then, Peyton Bender continued to impress as he completed a one play, fifty-seven yard touchdown “drive” to Ben Johnson on a deep pass up the middle, as KU concluded the third quarter up 35-10.
The fourth quarter was the quietest of the game. New kicker Gabriel Ruiz gave KU a more comfortable lead as he made his first field goal since taking over for the graduated Matthew Wyman. Follwing that, SEMO managed to find paydirt one more time, but was not able to convert the PAT. As the clock hit zero, KU would come out victorious, 38-16, and start off the season.
Peyton Bender, the newcomer, finished the game with 353 yards and 4 TD’s. His favorite target of the evening was no surprise, as Steven Sims Jr. started his season off hot with 142 yards receiving on only four receptions, with two of them being touchdowns.
The countdown to six wins started today and now that number is five. In other news, KU also has a better record than Texas, a top 25 team. Who Kansas beat. People forget that.
Kansas will now take on Central Michigan next Saturday at 3pm in Memorial Stadium, as they look to extend their home winning streak to three games. Fulton Caster and Jackson Schneider will be on the call, with pregame starting at 2pm on 90.7fm KJHK.