Saturday, September 2, 2017

Bender throws 4 TDs, Jayhawks roll in opener

Kansas junior receiver Steven Sims Jr. races down the field for a 77-yard touchdown in the first quarter of Saturday's season opener against Southeast Missouri State at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas junior receiver Steven Sims Jr. races down the field for a 77-yard touchdown in the first quarter of Saturday's season opener against Southeast Missouri State at Memorial Stadium.


On a night to celebrate the 2008 Orange Bowl champions team, the current version of the Kansas football team put on its own show Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

With junior transfer quarterback Peyton Bender behind center for his first career start, the Jayhawks displayed a strong aerial attack in a 38-16 victory over Southeast Missouri State in their season opener.

Bender tossed a pair of touchdowns on KU’s first two drives, including a 77-yard score to junior receiver Steven Sims Jr. on the team’s third play from scrimmage. Sims shook a defender on a short route and went untouched the rest of the way to the end zone.

Sophomore Chase Harrell added KU’s second touchdown on a jaw-dropping 8-yard one-handed grab, giving the Jayhawks a 14-0 lead within the first seven minutes.

Bender, who started his collegiate career at Washington State, finished 23-of-37 passing for 364 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in his Kansas debut. It was the first time a KU quarterback threw four touchdowns in a game since Todd Reesing in 2009.

In the final minute of the first half, the Jayhawks completed a 3-play, 52-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown catch by Sims.

Throughout the second half, Bender added a touchdown throw to Ben Johnson (57 yards) and true freshman running back Dom Williams scored on a 10-yard run. Williams led KU’s backfield with 41 rushing yards on 10 attempts.

Sims led KU’s receivers with four catches for 142 yards and two scores, while Johnson recorded three receptions for 90 yards and one touchdown.

Defensively, Joe Dineen Jr. led the Jayhawks with 15 tackles. Daniel Wise added a sack and three tackles for loss, Dorance Armstrong had three quarterback hurries and Josh Ehambe recovered a fumble, leading to a 25-yard field goal from Gabriel Rui.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

David Beaty talks Peyton Bender's debut, 38-16 win over SEMO

Following a 38-16 season-opening home victory over Southeast Missouri State, Kansas football coach David Beaty discussed Peyton Bender's strong debut, his defense and what he hopes improves heading into next week.

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Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:

The game turned when: The Jayhawks extended their lead to 21-7 in the final seconds before halftime. Needing to go 52 yards in 1:02, Bender started the drive with a 14-yard pass to Ryan Schadler. Then he hit Jeremiah Booker with a 32-yard pass, putting the Jayhawks inside of the 10-yard line.

After a holding penalty pushed the Jayhawks back 10 yards, Bender found Sims on a post route over the middle for a 16-yard touchdown.

The score gave the Jayhawks all the breathing room they would need, scoring two more touchdowns in the third quarter.

Offensive highlight: On 3rd-and-2 at the eight-yard line, Bender immediately looked in the direction of Harrell, a 6-4 receiver, on the outside. Running a fade route, Harrell spotted the ball and jumped up over SEMO cornerback Shabari Davis.

What followed was a sequence that will show up on highlight shows across the country. Harrell reached back with his left arm for a one-handed grab as he fell to his left and stuck both of his feet inbounds, giving the Jayhawks a 14-0 lead.

Harrell only used his right hand to help secure the ball as his left arm hit the ground, making the spectacular catch through contact.

Defensive highlight: After missing nearly all of last season with a hamstring injury, junior linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. showed how happy he was to return to the field. The Lawrence Free State High product led all players with 15 tackles (11 solo), which included 2.5 tackles for loss. That included one stop against a SEMO offensive lineman after broken up pass play.

Key stat: Average yards per play. The Jayhawks didn’t have much success on the ground against SEMO’s defensive line, but they made up for it through the air. That hasn’t been much of an option in recent seasons, but Bender and first-year coordinator Doug Meacham kept the Jayhawks moving the ball at a steady rate (7.0 yards per play to SEMO’s 3.4).

Up next: The Jayhawks will play host to Central Michigan, which won 30-27 in triple overtime against Rhode Island in Week One. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.



12:41 — Steven Sims Jr. 77 pass from Peyton Bender. Gabriel Rui kick. Three-play, 81-yard drive took 0:45. (KU 7, SEMO 0.)

8:57 — Chase Harrell 8 pass from Bender. Rui kick. Seven-play, 34-yard drive took 2:30. (KU 14, SEMO 0.)


8:52 — Trevor Billington 9 yards from Jesse Hoskett. Nicholas Litang kick. Five-play, 24-yard drive took 3:01. (KU 14, SEMO 7.)

0:13 — Sims 16 pass from Bender. Rui kick. Three-play, 52-yard drive took 0:50. (KU 21, SEMO 7.)


11:26 — Litang 45 field goal. Four-play, seven-yard drive took 2:05. (KU 21, SEMO 10.)

10:17 — Dom Williams 10 run. Rui kick. Three-play, 54-yard drive took 1:02. (KU 28, SEMO 10.)

8:26 — Ben Johnson 57 pass from Bender. Rui kick. One-play, 57-yard drive took :10. (KU 35, SEMO 10.)


14:14 — Rui 25 field goal. Six-play, 18-yard drive took 1:23. (KU 38, SEMO 10.)

12:17 — Kristian Wilkerson 22 pass from Hosket. Litang kick failed. Five-play, 75-yard drive took1:57. (KU 38, SEMO 16.)

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

More news and notes from Kansas vs. SEMO


Jacob Zutterman 5 years ago

I thought the defense was OK. Bender looked OK considering competition. I thougt he had "happy feet" too often. O line HAS to get better. Your passing game opens up when your running game works (at least with the roster we have). 76 rushing yards and 38 points is unacceptable against SEMO. I give our overall performance a C

Jacob Zutterman 5 years ago

The turnover margin has to change as well

Joe Ross 5 years ago

Lots to be concerned about. More problem areas for the offense than I had envisioned, including issues with Bender himself. Defense needs to step up some. Didn't look as sharp as last year, considering the opponent. Still, its the first game of the year played against someone other than guys wearing Kansas jerseys. Improvement has GOT to happen.

Brett McCabe 5 years ago

Pretty frustrating to watch. Not terrible would be my description. Bender missed quite a few open guys, no run game, average defensive performance. Pretty blehhh all the way around. On the plus, the kicking game looked reliable, though the punt coverage was awful. As you said, lots to be concerned about. Not at all what I had hoped to see. Next week must be much, much better.

David Kemp 5 years ago

Game momentum turned on punt fumble. Gave semo confidence they could play. Defense decent but needs to get to qb and offense inability to do anything with run game a huge problem

Michael Leiker 5 years ago

Agree with the tone of the posters above. Really thought we would see a dominating performance tonight. Lots of simple miscues and no real area where they just looked dominant. D looked slow to the ball.

Randy Bombardier 5 years ago

Its the first game. Don't think I'd draw too many conclusions yet. Execution appeared better from what little i saw of the game. 3rd down conversion rate and turnovers were my biggest disappointments. Also run game not too good. Defense looked decent, offense better than last year.

But hey, its a w. Turner Gills squad beat Baylor. I wouldn't take too much away from a game. Okie State lost last year to our next opponent and they finished the year strong. Improvement week to week is what we need to see.

Bryan Barton 5 years ago

Personally, I was satisfied with how we went into halftime with the quick score to make it 21-7. That really took the air out of SEMO. And we really put the game away in the 3rd quarter too with both of the quick TD drives.

I wasn't happy with how we finished the game (see: all 4th quarter). But I'm wondering if it had something to do with the fact that it looked like 25,000 of the 32,000 in attendance left before the 4th quarter even began. It seemed like it took a little life out of the stadium. Kind of disappointed in the thousands of fans that left way too early.

Joe Ross 5 years ago

I left this elsewhere. Pretty much restates my impression above in more detail:

"One game in and it seems like Bender's situation is a mixed bag. He's FAAAAR more accurate than Cozart ever was. More poise than Ryan Willis. But comparisons to Cozart and Willis shouldn't color our overall impression of his performance. Pundits have said, "This is the first time a Kansas QB has thrown for 4 touchdowns since Todd Reesing," but Todd did it against Mizzou. Bender did it against SEMO. He "only" threw 2 INTs, but several other passes could easily have been picked off. Many of the yards he threw for were yards after the catch. Some of his passes were caught by receivers making good adjustments to the ball. I'm not looking for a reason to be pessimistic, but TCU, OU, KSU and others are a whole lot better than SEMO. While it's too early to criticize Bender too harshly, it's also too early to coronate him. Yes, we're only one game in, but the reviews in the offseason were inflated when compared to his performance against SEMO. Just my opinion."

Len Shaffer 5 years ago

"Throughout the second half, Bender added a touchdown throw to Ben Johnson ..."

So Bender added touchdown throws to Ben Johnson over and over in the second half??? I mean "throughout???" From a "professional" journalist??? Seriously, Bobby???

As far as the game, I would have liked to come up with my own opinion, but thanks to the internet "connection" from ESPN, I gave up about 20 minutes in and didn't try again until the 4th quarter, when I got to watch garbage time. Garbage time didn't look very impressive, but I won't form my opinion of the team based on that.

I look forward to watching next week's game, when hopefully the Fox TV feed won't screw us like the ESPN internet feed did.

Titus Canby 5 years ago

I agree with all the posters. No running game is a real concern, especially against a team the caliber of SEMO. Four other things I found really concerning:

1) Up by 22 with 5 minutes left, who the heck made the decision to throw the long ball that got intercepted in the end zone? 2) Bender stares down his receivers. Can't do that against a decent team. 3) The SEMO QB missed one wide open receiver that should have been a touchdown. There were at least two other SEMO drops that could have gone for touchdowns that turned out to be drive killers. Plus If SEMO dropped twor interceptions. We could have easily lost this game. 4) The game lasted 3 hours and 40 minutes. No wonder people leave in the 3rd quarter.

On a positive note, after sitting through the entire ordeal, I didn't have to fight much traffic on the drive back to KC.

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