The Kansas Jayhawks opened their season and the Lance Leipold coaching era in style Friday night, defeating the South Dakota Coyotes, 17-14, thanks to some late game dramatics.
In the 100th year of David Booth Memorial Stadium, the Jayhawks found themselves down by four with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Jason Bean then helped engineer an 11-play, 64-yard drive that spanned nearly four minutes and concluded with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Lawrence Arnold to put the Jayhawks up three with just 1:10 left on the clock.
The key play on the drive came on 4th-and-10 at the South Dakota 47 when Bean found tight end Mason Fairchild for a 20-yard gain to keep the drive alive and help setup the win. Five plays later, the Jayhawks scored.
The South Dakota offense had one final chance, but the Kansas defense came up big and didn’t allow the Coyotes to get a first down. Bean then took a knee to ice the game and secure the victory for Leipold in his first game as head coach of the Jayhawks.
“The biggest thing is how proud I am of this group to battle back that late in the game when the momentum really shifted, especially what they’ve been through,” Leipold said. “We talked a lot about how since the last time this program has won a football game so to do it in that style is very fitting and I hope it’s something we will build upon.”
The first half of Friday’s game was a defensive battle between the Coyotes and Jayhawks. Late in the second quarter, the Kansas offense came alive and scored its first points of the season. The Jayhawks went 37 yards on seven plays and scored their first touchdown of the season when Bean hit Arnold for an eight-yard touchdown to give Kansas a 7-0 lead heading into halftime.
Kansas extended its lead in the second half. Halfway through the third quarter, kicker Jacob Borcila connected on a 30-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
South Dakota answered with a touchdown with 3:31 to play in the third to cut the lead to 10-7. The Coyotes then scored again in the fourth quarter with 5:13 left to go up 14-10 and setting up the dramatic comeback from the Jayhawks.
Kansas celebrated the win on the sideline by holding up Leipold and raising him in triumph to put an exclamation point on the night.
“I didn’t do anything so I don’t know why they picked me up, they probably should have picked up one of the guys who made the play,” a smiling Leipold joked. “The enthusiasm is flattering, this is about a program not about a coach and we are going to work to build on this. To see the excitement from the staff members and everyone will always be memorable.”
Bean finished the night with 163 yards and two touchdowns on 17 of 26 passing. He also added 54 rushing yards on 15 carries. Arnold had three catches for 33 yards and his two touchdowns. Fairchild led the team with 58 receiving yards. Trevor Wilson had five catches to lead the way.
Kyron Johnson, Gavin Potter and Kenny Logan Jr., led the team with seven tackles apiece. Johnson also had a sack and a forced fumble. Caleb Taylor had a pair of tackles-for-loss in the win and Kenean Caldwell also added a tackle-for-loss. The Jayhawks had four pass breakups as a team and allowed just 263 yards of total offense in the win and held South Dakota to 3-for-16 on third and fourth downs.
The Jayhawks will travel to Conway, South Carolina for their next game, facing the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers on September 10 at 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2.