MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Kansas came back from a 25-point deficit to force overtime in the 64th AutoZone Liberty Bowl, but came up short in three overtimes, falling 55-53 to Arkansas in a thriller.
Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels set a plethora of single-game and KU bowl records, leading the Jayhawks back from a 25-point deficit to force overtime. Kansas scored the last 25 points of regulation, including an 18-0 advantage in the fourth quarter to force overtime after trailing 38-13 with 8:43 to play in the third quarter. The Jayhawks forced a turnover, recovered an onside kick and scored two touchdowns in the final 1:05 to tie the game at 38-all.
Daniels, who became the first Kansas quarterback to ever top the 500-yard mark, set the Kansas single-game school record for passing yards (544) and yards of total offense (565), setting new AutoZone Liberty Bowl records for both as well. Daniels also set the Liberty Bowl record for touchdown passes with five, which is a KU bowl record and matches the second-most in school history for a single game. Daniels finished the game 37-for-55 for 544 yards and five touchdowns while adding 21 yards and a touchdown on 14 rushing attempts.
Daniels was named KU’s Outstanding Offensive Player, while OJ Burroughs, with eight tackles and an interception, earned the Outstanding Defensive Player honor.
Arkansas scored midway through the third quarter to go up 38-13, but momentum swung the way of the Jayhawks after that. KU covered 86 yards in just five plays on its next drive, using long receptions from wide receiver Luke Grimm and Mason Fairchild to get into position for running back Ky Thomas to score on a two-yard touchdown run. The touchdown from Thomas, his second score of the game and second rushing touchdown of the season, put the Jayhawks down 38-20 at the end of the third quarter.
Kansas had possession near the Arkansas red zone at the start of the fourth quarter and ended the drive with a 37-yard field goal from Owen Piepergerdes, which made it 38-23 with 14:07 to play. Things appeared bleak for the Jayhawks after they turned it over on downs with 3:52 to play, but the defense came up big with a turnover to again swing momentum. Marvin Grant forced a fumble that was recovered by Cobee Bryant and returned 37 yards, giving the Jayhawks new life with 2:43 to play.
Daniels led the Jayhawks down the field in seven plays and found Douglas Emilien for a 10-yard touchdown to make it 38-30 with 1:05 to play. On the ensuing kickoff, safety Kenny Logan made the onside recovery for the Jayhawks, giving KU a chance to tie the game in the final minute. That’s exactly what happened as Daniels again led his team right down the field and scored on a 21-yard touchdown pass to Grimm with 41 seconds to play. Needing a two-point conversion to tie the game, the Jayhawks went for it and Daniels found Lawrence Arnold for the conversion to complete the comeback.
Arkansas had time for five plays, but they only crossed midfield on the final play as time ran out in regulation.
In overtime, Kansas got the ball first and scored on fourth and goal from the two-yard line as Daniels found Jared Casey to give the Jayhawks a 45-38 lead, KU’s first lead since 7-3 in the first quarter. Arkansas needed just two plays to tie the game at 45-all, sending the game into a second overtime.
The Razorbacks got the ball first in double overtime and again scored in two plays, taking a 53-45 lead after a successful two-point conversion. Daniels scored on a two-yard touchdown run, setting up for a crucial two-point play to tie the game. On KU’s attempt, Daniels again rushed the ball and was stopped short, but Arkansas was flagged for targeting, giving the Jayhawks a second chance. KU made the most of it as Daniels again found Casey in the flat to tie the game at 53-53.
Triple overtime meant two-point attempts only, with Arkansas going first. The Razorbacks were successful on their attempt, while Kansas’ fell incomplete to end the Jayhawks longest bowl game in history.
Kansas set new bowl game records for first downs (32), pass attempts (56), pass completions (37), touchdown passes (5), total offense plays (90), and total offense yards (603).
Daniels led the way offensively with a single-game school record 544 passing yards and five passing touchdowns, breaking the previous record of 498 yards by Todd Reesing against Missouri on Nov. 28, 2009. He also set a new single-game school record with 565 yards of total offense, surpassing the mark of 509 set by Mike Norseth against Vanderbilt on Sept. 9, 1985.
Kansas had two receivers over the century mark as Grimm had career-highs of 10 receptions and 167 yards and a touchdown, while Lawrence Arnold had eight receptions for 119 yards. Fairchild, Thomas, Casey and Emilien each had touchdown receptions as 11 different Jayhawks caught a pass from Daniels in the win.