CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Carter Stanley had dreamed of an outcome like this for years.
That rang true in a literal sense Thursday night, when the Kansas football senior quarterback’s subconscious foreshadowed what would become a signature moment in a victory 11 years in the making.
Stanley finished 20-for-27 for 238 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in the Jayhawks’ 48-24 rout of Boston College at Alumni Stadium, guiding an offense that cruised in the program’s first road victory over a Power Five opponent since Oct. 4, 2008. All three of the 6-foot-2, 198-pound signal caller’s touchdowns came in an action-packed first half, helping the three-touchdown underdog Jayhawks stay afloat.
It was as quintessential a Stanley performance as one could’ve envisioned.
Known for welcoming contact, the fiery Vero Beach, Fla., native was true to form against the Eagles, specifically on a touchdown drive late in the second quarter — Stanley leapt a safety to secure a first down, blocked for running back Khalil Herbert on another third-down conversion and plowed into a defender shoulder-first to position the Jayhawks (2-1) at the Eagle 4-yard line, where Stanley lofted a scoring strike over a pair of defenders and into the hands of receiver Andrew Parchment.
The sequence gave KU its first lead, 21-17.
“You put your body at risk for your teammates," KU coach Les Miles said of Stanley's hard-nosed plays, "they recognize that."
As Stanley indicated, the keep-and-leap hurdle of diving Boston College defensive back Nolan Borgersen could very well have been destiny.
“I mean honestly, I had a dream about it (Thursday) night,” Stanley said. “But I also saw on film that the safety likes to kind of tackle low. It’s something I did in my senior year of high school. The moment was right, and I did it. ...
“It was just preparation, watching a lot of film and literally just visualizing their defense with our plays. I’m not kidding when I say I dreamed about that moment. It was literally on the left hash as well in my dream."
On a night where KU itself authored a stunning turnaround from a 12-7 home defeat to Coastal Carolina just six days prior, no player personified that reversal of fortunes more than Stanley.
Against the Chanticleers, Stanley finished 13-for-19 passing for 107 yards and a pair of interceptions, which brought his season turnover total to four through two games. While Miles never wavered on sending Stanley out for another start against the Eagles (2-1), an interception on the team’s opening drive directly led to the 10-0 deficit the Jayhawks found themselves in just minutes into the contest.
If nothing else, though, three previous seasons chock-full of adversity appear to have taught Stanley how to quickly move on from a disheartening moment.
“It’s the same thing this whole team had to do this past weekend — we had to flush it,” Stanley said of his opening-drive pick. “Last weekend had a disappointing result, but we knew it was back to work next day. I’m extremely thankful for these coaches and the looks that they gave us.”
Miles stuck with Stanley, and the decision paid off in a big way.
Beginning with the offense’s third drive, the Jayhawks scored on seven straight possessions, including four consecutive touchdowns. And Stanley was a driving force behind each cash-in — in addition to connecting on 19-, 4- and 3-yard touchdown passes, his 37-yard completion to Parchment set KU up at the Boston College 1, where fullback Hudson Hall plunged into the end zone for the easy points.
In past seasons, Stanley may have very well been pulled for a backup before getting an opportunity to orchestrate such moments. Under Miles, Stanley said he never thought he’d get the quick hook, even after his interception.
Stanley credited his teammates for instant encouragement on the sideline following the “unfortunate play.” Words from redshirt sophomore safety Davon Ferguson especially stood out.
“Everyone was just kind of like a quick tap or something, ‘You’re good.’ (Ferguson) grabbed me,” Stanley recalled. “He was like, ‘We’re riding with you. You’re good. Trust me, we’re with you.’ That meant a lot to me. And he told me at halftime and in the second half, he was like, ‘I told you we’re good.’ That meant a lot and that support means the world to me. ...
“I’m just so proud of our team and how we went out. I was telling our guys: That’s the team that we are, that’s who we are, that’s who I saw in fall camp. That was a complete game — offense, defense and special teams — and I can’t be more proud of this program.”
So what led to the drastic turnaround on offense?
For his part, Stanley credited the implementation earlier this week of more offensive plays, including several run-pass option looks installed by senior offensive consultant Brent Dearmon.
“It’s plays we’ve had for a while, dating back to spring,” Stanley said. “But we took ’em out this week, and sheesh, it was fun.”
From the locker room, Stanley tweeted his pride in the team's victory — “The Hawks flew high in Boston,” he wrote, adding the hashtag #TheJayhawksAreComing. Moments later, he’d tell the media that, thanks to a combination of belief, confidence and results, Friday night’s game was “probably the best I’ve felt in a Kansas jersey.”
There was one question Stanley couldn’t answer in his postgame comments: What was his vertical leap on the play he dreamed of the night before and made a reality in front of a national audience?
“I mean, I’ll have to see it on film. I think I actually got a little boost from the two guys that came in after and kept me up,” Stanley said with a laugh. “But shoot, we’ll see.”