Following a game during which hardly anything went right for his Kansas football team, head coach Lance Leipold felt enthusiastic about at least one aspect of the Jayhawks’ performance against Baylor.
Though the KU defense didn’t get nearly enough stops to slow down the Bears, the unit created two takeaways in the 45-7 loss. Veteran safety Kenny Logan Jr. forced one fumble in the first quarter and true freshman safety O.J. Burroughs caused a second fumble in the third.
Leipold thought both of the safeties made great plays.
“We talked about creating more (turnovers),” Leipold said. “To get those when we did were huge momentum swings for us and gives us a shot in the arm and all those things. Both were by secondary players, which was good, because we need them to be more physical.”
KU only trailed by seven when Logan squared up to BU receiver R.J. Sneed after a short completion and knocked the ball loose while wrapping up for a tackle. Redshirt freshman cornerback Ra’Mello Dotson spotted the ball on the turf and picked it up on the move for a 14-yard return.
Logan said after the loss he thought Dotson might be able to make a sprint down the sideline toward the end zone.
“I definitely thought he was gone. I was a little upset that he got tackled by a lineman,” a smiling Logan added, referencing how Bears center Jacob Gall tackled Dotson, “but it’s all good.”
Logan again had a defensive touchdown in mind in the third quarter, with the Jayhawks down 28-7 when Burroughs got low while tackling Trestan Ebner on a running play and jarred the ball free.
Logan, junior linebacker Rich Miller and senior defensive lineman Caleb Sampson converged on the ball as BU O-lineman Grant Miller and Ebner also tried to make the recovery.
It was unclear who had possessed the ball as the officials blew the whistle. Logan was credited with the fumble recovery after bending over to pick up the ball. Because he was never on the ground, Logan figured the play remained live, and he raced away in possession of the football, all the way to the end zone.
“Actually, the ball was like between the dude’s legs,” Logan recalled, “so no one had clearly recovered it. So it really should’ve been a touchdown. But they blew the play dead.”
The two fumble recoveries gave KU three for the season, which ties the Jayhawks for the 20th-best total nationally entering this week’s slate of games.
Logan said the forced fumbles against BU were made possible by he and Burroughs getting to the ball and executing like their coaches teach them.
Leipold said the KU staff will continue to ask even more of all of the defensive backs.
“We have to be able to not only (create takeaways), but get off perimeter blocks better and do those things,” the coach said. “So to see them do it was great.”
As a team, the Jayhawks (1-2 overall, 0-1 Big 12) have forced five fumbles through three games and recovered three. No one on the KU defense has yet to record an interception. In 2020, Logan had two of the Jayhawks’ four picks during an 0-9 season.
After navigating the first two weeks of action without committing a turnover, the KU offense nearly got through the BU blowout clean in that category. However, on the 11th of the Jayhawks’ 12 possessions versus the Bears, redshirt freshman running back Amauri Pesek-Hickson fumbled as he got hit on a second-and-9 carry in the latter stages of the fourth quarter.
The run was Peek-Hickson’s fourth in a row to open the series. All of his touches came on the abbreviated drive, and he finished with 12 yards on four carries.
With just one turnover lost on the season so far, KU currently ranks tied for fourth nationally in that category.
The Jayhawks’ next Big 12 matchup, on Oct. 2 at Iowa State, will be a night game at Jack Trice Stadium, the conference announced on Monday. KU’s first league road game of the fall will kick off at 6 p.m. and air nationally on FOX Sports 1.
Iowa State (2-1) is currently ranked No. 14 in the country. The Cyclones, who have defeated Northern Iowa and UNLV and lost to Iowa, play at Baylor this Saturday.
KU’s Week 4 game is Saturday at Duke (3 p.m., ACC Network).