No. 23 Kansas solid on defense, too, as Oklahoma State awaits

Field Level Media

October 10, 2023 at 7:55 pm.

Oklahoma State will face a ranked opponent for the first time this season when No. 23 Kansas travels to Stillwater for a Big 12 contest on Saturday.

The Jayhawks (5-1, 2-1) bounced back from a 26-point loss at then-No. 3 Texas on Sept. 30 with a 51-22 defeat of conference newcomer UCF last Saturday in Lawrence, Kan.

Kansas rushed for a whopping 399 yards and five touchdowns against UCF. Devin Neal ran for 154 yards and a score, Daniel Hishaw Jr. added 134 yards and two TDs, and Dylan McDuffie rushed for 91 yards and two TDs.

The Jayhawks averaged 7.8 yards per carry and posted their highest rushing total since gaining 400 against Rutgers in 2018. However, Kansas coach Lance Leipold said he was just as pleased with his defense, which kept the Knights off the scoreboard until the third quarter.

“I think our defense is playing at a level that I’m — I don’t know surprised — but to a level that I’m pleased with,” he said Monday. “Some of the depth I was anticipating that could come is starting to come, especially at the second level at our linebacker position. I can’t really say surprised, though. I think that’s underselling those guys.”

Kansas played without starting quarterback Jalon Daniels for the second straight week and third time this season. Daniels did not practice Monday and likely will be a game-time decision Saturday. Backup Jason Bean was 8-of-12 passing for 91 yards and one touchdown against the Knights.

The Jayhawks rank second in the Big 12 in both scoring (36 points per game) and rushing (232.3 yards per game). They will face a Cowboys defense that ranks 11th in the league against the run, allowing 154 yards per game.

Kansas defeated Oklahoma State 37-16 last season to halt a 12-game losing streak in the series; however, the Jayhawks have not won in Stillwater since 2007.

The Cowboys (3-2, 1-1) are coming off a 29-21 victory at home last Friday night against Kansas State. That ended a two-game skid for coach Mike Gundy’s squad.

Ollie Gordon II rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown and Alex Hale booted five field goals for Oklahoma State. The defense came up with three interceptions, including a 35-yard pick-six by Cameron Epps just before halftime.

In last season’s loss to Kansas in Lawrence, the Cowboys had no answers for Neal. The Jayhawks’ workhorse rushed 32 times for 224 yards and a touchdown and caught six passes for 110 yards.

“They’ve got a good package. They are smart and know what they are doing,” Gundy said Monday about the Kansas running game. “Those backs have gained confidence. They like running the ball because they are running for 3 to 4 yards past the line of scrimmage and not getting touched.”

The Cowboys lost wideout De’Zhaun Stribling for the season to a hand injury sustained in practice last week. The Washington State transfer caught 14 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown in four games.