LAWRENCE (TNS) — Key player: Steven Sims. After catching one pass for negative-2 last week, Sims carried the Jayhawks offense Saturday, catching nine passes for 233 yards in the Jayhawks’ 30-20 loss — tied for the sixth-most by an FBS player this season.
Key moment: On the first play of the second half, KU quarterback Carter Stanley was sacked by a blitzing Jayd Kirby and fumbled, giving Kansas State possession inside the KU 20. Three plays later, Alex Barnes scored on a 3-yard touchdown run that helped push the Wildcats’ lead to 17-6 — a cushion the Jayhawks couldn’t ever overcome.
Offense: B+. The return of center Mesa Ribordy made a huge difference for KU’s offensive line, which improved from incompetent to decent in the span of a week. The switch to Stanley also gave the offense some life, as he threw for the most yards by a KU quarterback since Todd Reesing. The Jayhawks’ 6.3 yards per play also was a monumental improvement from previous weeks, though KU still had too many drives stall on K-State’s side of the field.
Defense: A-. KU’s defense bent but didn’t break often against K-State. A 66-yard Wildcats’ drive was halted thanks to a great hustle play by defensive lineman Dorance Armstrong to force a fumble downfield. Safety Mike Lee stopped Alex Delton on a fourth-and-1 inside the 5 to stop another possession. The Wildcats’ three touchdowns came on drives of 26, 18 and on a kickoff return — an indication that K-State’s 30 points were more the result of circumstances than KU defensive errors.
Special Teams: F. Make it three weeks in a row with an opponent return for touchdown — this one a 99-yard kickoff tote from Kansas State’s D.J. Reed. The Jayhawks also were disorganized, sending out only 10 men for a punt return in the second quarter, and allowed Reed to break free for a 37-yard punt return in the third quarter. Give credit to Gabriel Rui, though, who made 28- and 42-yarders to improve to 10-for-11 on field goals this year.
Coaching: B. KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen had his team prepared, and the Jayhawks defense continued to perform well without the injured Armstrong in the second half when K-State’s longest drive was 35 yards. It also was a nice bounceback for offensive coordinator Doug Meacham, who switched to Stanley at quarterback and pulled out creative plays in the passing game to help the Jayhawks to 482 yards after last week’s 21-yard effort. The special teams, though ... yikes.