LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jason Bean hit Lawrence Arnold for their second touchdown connection with 1:12 remaining Friday night, allowing Kansas to escape with a 17-14 victory over South Dakota in coach Lance Leipold’s debut with the Jayhawks.
The Coyotes, who trailed 10-0 late in the third quarter, had pulled ahead when Kansas native Travis Theis ran 25 yards for a go-ahead score with 5:16 to go. But the Jayhawks answered by driving 64 yards in less than four minutes, converting fourth-and-10 along the way and getting some help from a targeting penalty on South Dakota freshman Myles Harden.
How good did it feel to win for Kansas? The student section rushed the field to celebrate the end of a 13-game skid — albeit against an FCS opponent — and the Jayhawks’ first win since beating Texas Tech on Oct. 26, 2019.
Bean, the North Texas transfer, also found Arnold for a score late in the second quarter. He finished 17 of 26 for 163 yards while adding 54 yards on the ground. But he didn’t get much help from the rest of the offense — Velton Gardner carried 19 times for 21 yards, and the Jayhawks’ rebuilt offensive line provided little resistance.
South Dakota couldn’t take advantage of it, though.
The Coyotes, who have beaten Minnesota and Bowling Green over the years, were penalized eight times, went 3 for 13 on third down and 0 for 3 on fourth. Carson Camp was just 10-for-22 passing for 98 yards.
Leipold was hired earlier this year when Les Miles, the latest in a growing list of failed Kansas coaches, resigned following sexual harassment allegations dating to his national championship-winning tenure at LSU.
A longtime Division III coach, Leipold promised to bring along fundamentally sound football, relying on the same formula that produced six lower-level national titles in eight seasons and an impressive turnaround at Buffalo.
Instead, the Jayhawks looked a lot like the same team that hasn’t had a winning season in more than a decade.
They went three-and-out on their first three possessions, a streak of ignominy interrupted only by two false start penalties, and by the end of the first quarter had more penalty yards (20) than yards of offense (18). And after taking a 10-0 lead on Bean’s TD pass to Arnold and Jacob Borcila’s field goal, their meager advantage was quickly wiped out.
South Dakota’s first score came when Lawrence made a defender whiff in the defensive backfield and scooted 29 yards late in the third quarter. Then, after the Coyotes stuffed Kansas on fourth-and-inches at their own 46-yard line, Theis took a handoff two plays later 25 yards for a touchdown and their first lead of the night.
The Jayhawks managed to answer down the straight to avoid an embarrassing start to Leipold’s time in Lawrence.
South Dakota piled up 165 yards rushing and two touchdowns, but they couldn’t sustain any drives when it mattered the most. The Coyotes never made it into the Kansas red zone with their two scores coming on long runs.
Kansas nearly paid $450,000 for South Dakota to come into Memorial Stadium and deal it a defeat. It was nevertheless a good barometer for Leipold of just how far his coaching staff needs to go to turn around a downtrodden program.
South Dakota plays its home opener against Northern Arizona next Saturday.
Kansas visits No. 22 Coastal Carolina next week for another Friday night game.
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