Kansas football vs. TCU report card: Jayhawks fall just short against Horned Frogs

Jordan Guskey
Topeka Capital-Journal
Nov 20, 2021; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks running back Devin Neal (4) turns the corner on TCU Horned Frogs linebacker Jamoi Hodge (6) during the first half at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

LAWRENCE — Kansas football came up short Saturday on the road in a Big 12 Conference matchup against TCU, losing 31-28.

The Jayhawks (2-9, 1-7 in Big 12) erased a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the score 28-28 late. The Horned Frogs (5-6, 3-5 in Big 12) were simply able to drive down the field as the clock ticked down, and hit a field goal with little time remaining to take the lead for good. Up next for Kansas is its regular season finale Nov. 27 at home against West Virginia, in a game that’s scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m.

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Here’s how the Jayhawks grade out from their most recent defeat:

Offense: Jayhawks find success, even with Devin Neal out for a half

When freshman running back Devin Neal sustained the injury in the first half that would keep him out in the second, Kansas had to do without a talent that meant so much to its offense. And for a time, the Jayhawks couldn’t get much done. The drive Neal got hurt ended with sophomore quarterback Jalon Daniels’ interception, and the next three didn’t yield any points.

But in the fourth quarter Daniels and Kansas’ passing attack delivered a pair of touchdown drives that rescued their team from a lackluster finish. One of the scoring drives ended with a spectacular catch by sophomore wide receiver Luke Grimm, and the other added another chapter to redshirt freshman Jared Casey’s story as he caught a 10-yard strike in the end zone. Give the Jayhawks more time after TCU’s late field goal, maybe in overtime like the week before, and there’s a good chance Daniels leads his team to another victory.

Daniels finished 22-for-30 through the air for 255 yards, with those two touchdowns and that one interception. He also rushed for 37 yards and a score.

Super-senior wide receiver Kwamie Lassiter II had eight catches for 101 yards. Before Neal’s injury, Neal amassed 59 yards on the ground and a touchdown on 14 carries.

Kansas could have performed better on third downs. It allowed a few tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. The Jayhawks, though, averaged 6.2 yards-per-play and four yards-per-carry as injuries continued to pile up.

Grade: B

Defense: Kansas couldn’t come up with that last, necessary stop

There were a number of key stops, that the Jayhawks’ defense came up with to give its team a chance.

Freshman cornerback Jacobee Bryant came up with an interception in the end zone in the second quarter that should find its way onto SportsCenter’s top 10 plays. After Daniels’ interception, senior defensive lineman Caleb Sampson came up with a stop on 4th-and-short in the red zone to hold another Horned Frogs drive to no points. Super-senior linebacker Nate Betts sacked TCU’s quarterback in the fourth quarter to force a punt, that led to the drive that allowed Kansas to tie the score 28-28.

But after that late Jayhawks touchdown, the Horned Frogs were able to effectively run out the clock as they set up for the game-winning field goal. Explosive plays cut through Kansas throughout the contest, with runs of 42, 43 and 56 yards and passes of 48 and 49 yards accounting for 238 of TCU’s 492 total yards. The Horned Frogs may have struggled with short-yardage runs at times, including at the goal line at one point, but they still collected 326 yards on the ground and averaged 6.7 yards-per-carry.

Junior safety Kenny Logan Jr.’s 15 tackles are a highlight. So, too, are the sack each by Betts, super-senior defensive end Kyron Johnson and sophomore defensive lineman Jereme Robinson. The Jayhawks had five tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries, and Robinson forced a fumble on his sack.

Kansas, which allowed 7.6 yards-per-play, just needed a highlight on that last drive.

Grade: C-

Special teams: A missed field goal looms large

There aren’t many complaints, that can be levied against what Kansas did when it punted and kicked the ball away, or what the Jayhawks’ return men did when the ball came their way.

Maybe redshirt freshman wide receiver Kyler Pearson fielding the final kickoff more cleanly changes something, but that’s unlikely. Kansas punts gave TCU tough field position multiple times. And in the first quarter, the Jayhawks were even able to recover a fumble when redshirt junior linebacker Nick Channel fell on the ball after a muffed punt.

The main issue, is that redshirt sophomore Jacob Borcila missed a 45-yard field goal in the second quarter and Kansas lost by a field goal. Borcila connected on all of his extra points, and it’s not as if that singular play led to the Jayhawks’ loss. It’s just that the miss by Borcila, who’s now 7-for-13 on field goals, looms large.

Grade: B

Coaching: Kansas doesn’t preach moral victories, but it got one

After the Jayhawks nearly upset Oklahoma, they came into the next week and got drubbed on the road by Oklahoma State. It was a loss that allowed doubt to creep in about how much weight could be given to that game against the Sooners the week before. And the tough loss the week after against Kansas State didn’t help either.

But after topping Texas last week, Kansas was competitive again. The Jayhawks had their chances. There’s sustained momentum that could lead to a victory on senior day. And that is commendable.

It’s questionable, to an extent, why Kansas handled its timeouts the way it did in the last minute of the game. It’s questionable, to an extent, why the Jayhawks didn’t allow the Horned Frogs to score instead of holding them to a field goal late on that final drive. But on the latter, it seemed evident TCU had no intention by that point of getting into the end zone.

Grade: B-

Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at jmguskey@gannett.com or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.