The Kansas Jayhawks didn’t leave Reno with a huge victory for their resume.
Nor was it a particularly decisive one — they came in as 28-point favorites and won by a touchdown.
But a win is a win, and KU (3-0) defeated Nevada (0-3) 31-24 Saturday night at Mackay Stadium.
Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels, who threw for 298 yards, was just happy to bring home a positive result.
“It was an ugly win,” Daniels said. “At the end of the day, we were able to grab that win. ... We’re not going to complain about another win in the win column.”
Here are grades for all three KU units, plus our Jayhawks player of the game:
Kansas football grades
Kansas’ offense started red-hot.
Running back Devin Neal finished a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 3-yard rushing touchdown on KU’s opening possession. And Daniels was 5-for-5 for 60 yards.
From there, things went awry. KU would score just three points the rest of the half.
Daniels’ play was a little erratic. He waited too long to get rid of the ball multiple times and threw deep balls that missed the target. And he nearly threw two interceptions. Daniels had 101 passing yards at halftime — 60 of which came on the opening drive.
Not to mention, penalties killed the momentum of multiple KU drives.
But the Jayhawks turned it around in the second half and put up another 21 points. Daniels looked like his usual self, going through his progressions, making the right reads and tossing smart, accurate throws. And he didn’t hold onto the ball too long.
KU’s rushing duo of Neal and Daniel Hishaw Jr. averaged better than five yards per carry and combined for four touchdowns.
Still, the Wolf Pack defense had allowed an average of 49.5 points and 565.5 yards per game. It’s reasonable to have expected more from the Jayhawks against this opponent.
Self-inflicted mistakes by Kansas’ defense allowed Nevada to stick around all game.
Penalties on the Jayhawks’ defense extended multiple Nevada drives. And Kansas had issues recovering fumbles. KU failed to recover five by the Wolf Pack — including late in the game, when defensive end Hayden Hatcher touched the ball out of bounds before a teammate could recover it.
KU also struggled to contain Wolf Pack quarterback Brendan Lewis, who scrambled for 63 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry. It’s also worth noting, however, that Lewis was able to pass for just 113 yards.
Special teams: B+
Boy, Seth Keller can kick. He was perfect on his lone field-goal attempt (44 yards) and made all of his extra-point tries. KU punter Damon Greaves punted the ball three times with an average of 39.7.
Overall, Kansas’ special teams unit did its job without significant mistakes.
Player of the game: Devin Neal
Neal was special. He put together an impressive performance on the ground, averaging 5.2 yards per carry with three rushing touchdowns. When he caught his lone reception, he turned it into a 59-yard gain.
Neal was explosive and hard to contain in spite of the fact that he came into the game nursing an injury.