Kansas improved to 2-0 Saturday after winning a high scoring, back-and-forth battle with defending MAC West Champions Northern Illinois. The contest saw roughly 1100 yards of offense, 87 points and six lead changes, but Kansas ultimately settled at the top with a 45-42 victory.
In a frustrating first half, the Jayhawks had two holding penalties, both unnecessary and away from the play that called back long TD runs. The first was on DJ Beshears and negated a 32 yard scamper on 4th and 1 by James Sims. After the penalty, Alex Mueller attempted a 49 yard FG that went wide left. The second wiped out an electrifying 75+ yard run by true freshman Tony Pierson. Kansas was down 21-7 halfway through the second quarter, and things looked bleak until two touchdown drives and a huge overturned call on fourth down led to a 21-21 tie at halftime.
Kansas finally took back the lead late in the third quarter, only to watch NIU slash through the porous Kansas defense and tie it up less than two minutes later. The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair that found NIU up 42-38 with five minutes remaining. After a willful kick return by DJ Beshears set them up with great field position, the Kansas offense was able to push the ball to near the goal line and run down the clock. After setting themselves up with a 1st and goal at the 5 yard line, Kansas was stuffed on three consecutive plays and found themselves staring down the barrel with a 4th and goal from the six yard line. Webb then got the ball to DJ Beshears at the goal line for his second TD of the day with nine seconds left, and after a failed hail mary attempt, the party started in Lawrence.
The defense was dreadful for a second consecutive week, and certainly raised questions about their ability to compete once Kansas gets into their grueling conference schedule, but the offense was once again productive, operating behind a sturdy front line that controlled the line of scrimmage. Webb and Beshears had career games, and despite the defensive concerns, it was an incredible night that found the Jayhawks undefeated in the end.