LAWRENCE, Kan. – On the strength of 539 yards of total offense and an electric performance from junior quarterback Jalen Daniels, the Kansas Jayhawks defeated Illinois, 34-23 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
A crowd of 45,809 saw Kanas don all-black uniforms and improve to 2-0 for the second-consecutive season, while Illinois fell to 1-1.
Daniels, the Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, engineered Kansas scoring drives on two of its first three possessions of the game and later concluded the first half with a four-play 75-yard touchdown drive in 36 seconds. Appearing in his first game of the season, Daniels was 21-for-29 passing for 280 yards and two touchdowns and he rushed for 41 yards on 11 carries.
For the second straight game, KU posted more than 500 yards total offense outgaining Illinois 542 to 341. In its opener, KU had 521 yards total offense against Missouri State on Sept. 1. Kansas has now gone over 500 yards of total offense in nine games under head coach Lance Leipold.
Kansas amassed 262 yards rushing with junior Devin Neal leading the way with 120 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown, while redshirt-junior Daniel Hishaw Jr. posted a career-high 100 yards and one score. The Jayhawk duo is the first to rush for 100+ yards in the same game since 2019 (at Boston College; Khalil Herbert, Pooka Williams Jr.).
Defensively, Kansas recorded six sacks with junior Jereme Robinson and redshirt-sophomore Austin Booker recording two each.
Following an Illinois punt, the Jayhawks marched 82 yards in 11 plays with Daniels going 5-for-6 through the air, including a four-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior Torry Locklin.
Illinois’ second punt of the quarter occurred on its second possession, then Daniels once again led KU to a touchdown putting the Jayhawks up 14-0. Daniels connected with junior tight end Jared Casey for a five-yard TD pass to cap off the drive. Daniels would finish the first quarter 8-for-11 for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
Kansas went up 21-0 toward the end of the second quarter after an 11-play, 94-yard methodical touchdown drive that consumed 6:41 off the clock. Neal went the final five yards rushing for the score.
Illinois bounced back to cut the lead to 21-7 with 41 seconds prior to the half but the time remaining was more than enough for Daniels to orchestrate a 36-second touchdown drive in four plays that covered 75 yards and culminated in a Hishaw one-yard rush to put the home team up 28-7 at halftime. On the second play of the drive Daniels found junior Luke Grimm on a 48-yard completion down the right sideline. Grimm would end the contest with three catches for 69 yards.
Neal opened the third quarter rushing 43 yards up the middle that would later set up a redshirt-senior Seth Keller 41-yard field goal to make the score 31-7. Keller would add a 30-yard field goal with 3:46 to play in the third quarter to make the score 34-7. KU would go 34-yards in seven plays highlighted by Daniels completion to Lawrence Arnold for a 19-yard reception setting up the Keller field goal.
Illinois would not go away scoring 16 unanswered points to make the score 34-23 with 8:08 to play. With 3:33 remaining, the Illini would later mount a drive to the Illinois 48 when KU redshirt-junior Kwinton Lassiter intercepted a Luke Altmeyer pass that ended the Illinois threat and securing the KU win.
Kansas will make its first road trip of the season when it plays at Nevada on Saturday, Sept. 16. Kickoff from Mackey Stadium will be at 9:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on the CBS SPORTS NETWORK.