The Kansas Jayhawks took one on the chin last Saturday, losing 40-14 to the Texas Longhorns. It was a top-25 matchup heading into it, Kansas #24, and Texas #3. There was some nice hype surrounding this game as the last time these two teams faced off in Austin, Texas, it was the Jayhawks who came out victorious with a 57-56 overtime win.
It wasn’t meant to be this year. Jalon Daniels, the preseason Big 12 offensive player of the year candidate, was unable to go on Saturday due to a reaggravation of his back, an issue that quietly lingered throughout the summer. Daniels did walkthroughs with the team, but when the team took the field in pads, he was nowhere to be found.
Jason Bean, the super-senior quarterback who has started games for Kansas including Week 1 of this season, was ready to take the reins. Out of the gates, it did feel like the team was flat both physically and emotionally. The Longhorns jumped out to a 10-0 lead before the Jayhawks were able to get on the board after a long run from Bean that resulted in a fumble picked up by running back Daniel Hishaw and taken to the house.
The defense played very well after the Longhorn’s opening drive, limiting Texas to six points the rest of the first half. The Jayhawks were only down 13-7 at halftime, a game that seemed like it might go south quickly after the early success of Texas. Immediately following halftime, Texas moved the ball with ease on the ground. Jonathan Brooks took off for a 54-yard touchdown run to get things going in the second half. The Jayhawks were able to match on their next possession with a long pass from Bean to wide receiver Trevor Wilson. The score remained 20-13 throughout most of the third quarter.
Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, the offense could not move the ball after that touchdown. The team was 0-for-8 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down attempts. Prior to the game against Texas, the Jayhawks ranked first in the nation in third down conversion rate. That was not the case on Saturday and led to a very lopsided time of possession battle. Texas handled the Jayhawks by a margin of 39:41 to 18:27. This led to KU’s defense getting very tired and worn down as the third-quarter clock ticked away.
Texas scored the final 20 points of the game, as the Jayhawks could not move the sticks on offense, and ended up getting the 40-14 win. Jason Bean did what he could in a pinch. He came back to Kansas for another season for these types of scenarios. Well, maybe not this exact scenario, but one where if Daniels would go down, you’d have a competent backup in place to lead the team. Bean found out he would start 30 minutes before the game was set to kick off. He ended the game 9-for-21 passing for 136 yards. His inability to move the chains on third down cost the team all game.
The decision-making between Bean and Daniels is the biggest difference between them. Both of these guys are very gifted athletes. Daniels has the ability to make plays when he needs to and has an edge when it comes to making plays that only a few in college football can do. Yes, Bean filled in during a tough situation, but it was easy to see why Daniels was clearly missed.
Now this will be a concern for the rest of the season. When Daniels missed Week 1, it seemed like they were just being cautious when facing an inferior opponent. Now that the back issue has lingered into October, this is officially red flag territory. Will his back require time off to heal or is it just something that will pop up randomly from time to time? Will he eventually need surgery to correct whatever the issue is with his back? There are still a lot of question marks surrounding Daniels and whatever happens from here forward.
Head coach Lance Leipold is calling this a day-to-day issue and says they have not talked about shutting Daniels down. Knowing what they do with this injury, they can now give Bean more first-team reps at practice this week and he should be more prepared as they get ready to host a UCF team that is coming off a devastating 36-35 loss at home to Baylor. It might be a good time for the Jayhawks to get the Knights as they are also dealing with an injury to their quarterback. It could be a battle of the backups in Lawrence on Saturday at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
While Daniels will be the starter whenever he is healthy, it seems like he could very well be a question mark for the rest of the season. Bean will be ready to go but the ceiling for this team isn’t as lofty as we’d imagined before the season. The reality of the situation is this: when Daniels is healthy, the Jayhawks can compete with any team in the Big 12. When he’s out, we’ve seen the limitations. Let’s hope Daniels can heal up quickly so the Jayhawks can reach their potential with this core group of players.