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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Tom Keegan: Armstrong showcases ‘sensational’ talent against Texas

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. (2) puts Texas running back D'Onta Foreman (33) on the ground after recovering a fumble during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. (2) puts Texas running back D'Onta Foreman (33) on the ground after recovering a fumble during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

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The heights and weights listed on the rosters, the betting line, the stars placed next to their names by recruiting services, all tell me that I’m supposed to write that the team of misfit toys somehow found a way to slay giants Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

One problem with following that script: I watched the football game and if Kansas didn’t have the most talented player on the field, then I guess I just don’t know how to watch football.

Kansas, the team with the best player won the football game, 24-21 in overtime, over a Texas squad favored by 24 points and motivated by trying to earn a bowl berth.

Dorance Armstrong, KU’s sophomore defensive end from Houston, a workout warrior, a serious student of the game and a freakishly fast player, threw his strong 6-foot-4, 246-pound frame all over the field to disrupt play after play and never allowed himself to be derailed by the KU offense’s repeated failure to take advantage of opportunities gift-wrapped by the defense.

In the first half alone, Armstrong forced a fumble, recovered one and had two sacks. For the game, he tallied 11 tackles, nine solos, three for a loss. His returned the fumble seven yards, but covered much more ground than that looking for daylight, seeking six points he couldn't get. He went after it like he goes after the quarterback.

“I ran across the field, came back,” he said. “I heard a lot of people call my name, wanting me to pitch the ball, but I wanted to get in the end zone so bad.”

It was one of four turnovers the defense forced in the second quarter and one of six for the game. Armstrong’s in incredible shape, but even he had to be exhausted in the midst of an on-field celebration. Still, he loved it, soaked it all in with his signature smile taking up residence in so many strangers' smart phones.

“I honestly feel like I took a picture with every person that was in this stadium,” Armstrong said. “I came in the locker room and they were already talking. I was like, ‘Dang, I didn’t know I missed all this.’"

No big deal, the photographs, snapped by the most loyal Kansas football supporters, will last forever. A crowd of 25,673 watched Kansas storm back from a 21-10 deficit to snap a 19-game Big 12 losing streak.

A native of Houston, Armstrong was recruited by Texas, but never received a scholarship offer.

“I had a lot of them,” he said of letters from Longhorns coaches. “But I never had an offer. I went to two camps there. I went on an unofficial visit and toured their campus, but I still didn’t get an offer. I’m not mad. I just feel like they missed on an opportunity to have me.”

If there is any justice in the world, Armstrong is headed for first-team Big 12 honors, but senior safety Fish Smithson didn't stop there when addressing the enormity of his teammate's talent.

"Honestly, I think he's as talented as any defensive end in America," Smithson said. "He's a sensational player. After his freshman season, he put on a whole lot of weight and still has great speed. So he's big, fast, physical and athletic. You saw him with the ball in his hands making people miss."

The offense, led by receiver Steven Sims, running back Ke’aun Kinner and quarterback Carter Stanley, came alive late to keep another strong effort from the defense from being wasted and this was the defense’s best game of the season.

Brandon Stewart, Smithson and Mike Lee picked off passes, Stewart taking his 55 yards for a touchdown.

Denzel Feaster and Cameron Rosser each forced and recovered fumbles. Keith Loneker was in on 16 tackles, including 11 solos. Smithson made 10 solo tackles, including one on which he was the last hope to bring down monster back D'Onta Foreman (250 yards and two touchdowns).

"He's huge, even bigger in person than he is on film," Smithson said of the 238-pound Heisman Trophy candidate.

Defensive tackle Daniel Wise, who next to Armstrong has been the team’s best defensive player, had two sacks and another tackle behind the line of scrimmage, and like Armstrong played with a contagious energy because that's the only way to the two most important building blocks to KU's future know how to play.

Armstrong and Wise have two more seasons together after this one.

“It feels good,” Armstrong said of having more games playing with Wise ahead of him than behind him. “I know, he knows, and everyone on this team knows next year we’re going to be even better, and the year after that we’re going to be even better. With all the new kids that come in, we’re going to be even better than we were.”

Many things had happened in the world since Kansas last had defeated Texas. To name a few, there was World War II, the invention of the automatic dishwasher and computer, Mario Chalmers' three-pointer against Memphis, KU volleyball's first Big 12 volleyball title, clinched hours before the football team defeated Texas for the first time since 1938.

And of course, the birth of Dorance Armstrong, a player so talented he is capable of accelerating the rebirth of KU football.

— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Texas


Comments

David Kemp 9 months ago

We have some seriously good players coming back and Armstrong , lee, carter, sims and the list goes on. If recruiting goes well we could be a 4 or 5 win team.

Suzi Marshall 9 months ago

We could be a bowl team.

Let's all hope Armstrong can recruit some of his former North Shore teammates, who advanced to the TX 6A regional semifinals to play Katy next Friday.

Brett McCabe 9 months ago

The O/U for the year was 1.5, so they've won that bet. I predicted 3 wins (I thought that we'd beat Ohio at home).

4 or 5 could be possible. To do that, we'd need to start playing like legit members of a P5 conference.

If Baylor continues its slide, they'll be beatable in Lawrence. TTU might also be a good spot for a home win. On the road, maybe TCU? We need to take care of the non-con, for sure. Next year is critical, two wins won't cut it.

Suzi Marshall 9 months ago

We do need to go 3-0 in the non-con but Cent. MI and Ohio in Athens will not be a cake walk. Unlike this year's team, we need to come out ready to play those games. Realistically, the Big 12 season will be tough with home games vs BU, TTU and KSU are all relatively good hopes for wins.

Andy Tweedy 9 months ago

If I'm not mistaken, it was Armstrong who forced the Texas QB out of the pocket on Lee's OT interception as well...he was an absolute beast today!

David Kemp 9 months ago

Dont leave out Wise. He played one helluva game. And kudos to Lonecker for rising from Baker to starting ku linebacker when we needed him.

Dirk Medema 9 months ago

They wanted to talk about all the players UT lost on their OL, but don't think they said anything about KU missing most of our 2 deep at LB. Arnick is the only 1, and he was hurt at one point.

Humpy Helsel 9 months ago

Bless those kids and the coaches' hearts! Bless the hearts of Jayhawk faithful. I've been pretty hard on Beaty recently. But not today. Tomorrow I'll be an armchair coach, but not today. Congratulations, team. Enjoy this for 24 hours and get ready for Sunflower Showdown.

Gerry Butler 9 months ago

We have the pieces, or quite a few of them. Our defense is just going to get better, they are better the what it appears even at the present. I don't care who's defense it is, if your offense can't stay on the filed and move the ball, your defense WILL wear down. Armstrong is a beast. we have Armstrong, Wise, lee, and we have dam his name escapes me that has been out most of the season looking for a red- shirt for him he is a stud. We have been competitive for parts in multiple games this season, just wear down, which is also part of the schlorship issues we have at present.- - - -we ARE getting better, crawl before we can walk. GREAT JOB GUYS has to feel great, working so hard every day in practice and now you get to feel reap the benefits of the win. Keep working you doing fine - -ROCK CHALK LL DAY LONG BABY

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