Kansas football grades: Analysis of KU Jayhawks’ close loss vs. Kansas State Wildcats

The Kansas Jayhawks football team made multiple mistakes that ultimately cost them the game on Saturday.

KU (7-4, 4-4 Big 12) lost 31-27 to No. 23 Kansas State (8-3, 6-3) at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

Although the result was close, Kansas coach Lance Leipold isn’t taking any solace in the defeat. The Jayhawks have lost 15 in a row to their in-state rivals.

“I said from the start, two years ago, we’re not in the moral victory business,” Leipold said. “So I don’t want to start acting like I am now. Because this was a winnable football game and that stings.”

Kansas travels to Cincinnati next Saturday to play the Bearcats in KU’s final game of the regular season.

Here are grades for all three KU units against K-State, plus our Kansas player of the game.

Kansas Football offense: B-

KU’s rushing attack had an excellent game against an excellent K-State defense.

The Jayhawks totaled 244 yards on 5.7 yards per carry. Kansas star running back Devin Neal led the way with 138 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.

Kansas quarterback Cole Ballard, who started the game due to Jason Bean’s head injury, had an OK day overall.

He completed 11 of 16 pass attempts for 116 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Ballard played well, besides his two interceptions. He made accurate throws amid pressure by K-State and didn’t take any sacks for holding the ball too long.

Kansas football defense: B+

Overall, KU’s defense did its job. The Jayhawks allowed only 331 total yards. Meanwhile, Kansas’ offense had 396.

Kansas’ defense did have two potential missed opportunities.

The Jayhawks couldn’t force the Wildcats off the field and allowed a long, clock-eating drive that ended the game.

Perhaps the most significant missed chance came when Kansas linebacker Rich Miller dropped a likely pick-six that would have put Kansas up 33-16.

Instead, K-State scored on the ensuing drive.

Kansas special teams: D

KU’s special teams play may have singlehandedly cost the Jayhawks a victory.

KU kicker Seth Keller’s PAT attempt was blocked by K-State and returned the distance for two points. KU’s 13-7 lead became 13-9.

Then, Kansas made an even bigger mistake in the second half.

Kansas return man Trevor Wilson fumbled the ball and the Wildcats recovered. K-State turned that gaffe into seven points, too.

A special teams silver lining for KU? Punter Damon Greaves had a season-high punt of 49 yards.

KU Player of the Game: Devin Neal

Neal joined some elite company Saturday night.

Neal is the third Jayhawk in program history to rush for 1,000+ yards in back-to-back seasons, joining James Sims and Pooka Williams Jr.

Neal has put together a special season.