Kansas defeats Southeast Missouri State, 38-16

  • 6 p.m., Sept. 2, 2017
  • David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, KS

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Happy debut: Peyton Bender starts fast in opening win over SEMO

Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender (7) throws a touchdown pass to wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11) during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender (7) throws a touchdown pass to wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11) during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017 at Memorial Stadium.


The path that first took him through Pullman, Wash., then Fulton, Miss., eventually led quarterback Peyton Bender to Lawrence, Kansas. And although the junior transfer’s highly-anticipated debut didn’t venture into the realm of flawless, Bender proved worthy of his place atop the depth chart on a 364-yard, four-touchdown Saturday night and piloted KU’s Air Raid offense to a 38-16 victory over Southeast Missouri State in the Jayhawks’ season-opener.

The opening three plays from first-year offensive coordinator Doug Meacham all called upon Bender’s right arm, and the former Washington State and Itawamba Community College QB didn’t often disappoint the 32,134 in attendance at Memorial Stadium.

Bender connected with Jeremiah Booker on his first career snap as a Jayhawk, and although his second throw fell incomplete, the third found Steven Sims Jr. for a 77-yard touchdown. Bender said Sims, entering his third year with KU, made his job “tremendously easy.”

“I threw him a slant route on the third play of the game and he made two guys collide into each other and took it the rest of the way to the end zone,” Bender said. “I didn’t do much work on that play. I threw a five-yard pass and it shows up as 70 in the stat book. That’s always nice.”

That quick strike benefited Sims’ output, too, as the sprint after catch set him up for a career-high 142 yards to go with his four catches and two touchdowns.

“It felt good. I kind of couldn’t feel my legs,” Sims said of the TD on the team’s opening drive. “I guess the adrenaline was running. I was just running, running. I saw the open field, I was like, ‘I’ve got to score. I can’t get caught from behind.’”

KU’s first two drives of the season, in fact, ended with Bender TD passes, the second a remarkable left-handed snag by redshirt sophomore Chase Harrell for an early 14-0 advantage.

“It felt good. Got my confidence going,” Bender said of KU (1-0) opening the season with back-to-back TD drives. “Just kind of reassured myself that we can play. It was just nice to see us clicking as an offensive unit out of the gate. Like I said, though, we just need to get more consistent. We showed glimpses of how explosive we can be. We just have to do that all the time and stay consistent.”

Third-year head coach David Beaty said the opener showed Bender was capable of many of the things the coaches have hoped to see since the day they signed him in December of 2016.

“Man, it was great,” Beaty said of finally seeing the 6-foot-1 junior play for Kansas. “We said we needed to get off to a quick start. That’s something that everybody wants to do, right. And you don’t always do it. But he did it. He’s a guy that we thought was going to be a very, very talented guy and you could see glimpses of that tonight.”

However, the offense sputtered the majority of the first half before Bender got rolling again with the help of a two-minute drill to beat the second-quarter clock. Sims snagged a 16-yard strike from Bender in the end zone this time, leading to a 21-7 halftime lead.

The three-play, 52-yard drive that took all of 50 seconds, Bender said, helped him re-establish a rhythm.

“I think we were just playing a little tight. Maybe we got complacent — we were up by 14 early and we took our foot off the gas pedal. Getting that score going into half was huge, made it a two-score game. I think that just helped us relax,” the QB said, “and we came out in the third quarter and scored a few more.”

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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As anticipated, Bender spread the ball around to numerous capable targets. Nine different Jayhawks caught a pass, with upperclassmen Booker (five catches, 66 yards) and senior tight end Ben Johnson (three receptions, 90 yards and a TD) complementing Sims’ big-play ability.

No Jayhawk had thrown four touchdowns in a game since program great Todd Reesing, in attendance for the opener as KU’s 2008 Orange Bowl championship team was inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame, did so against Missouri in 2009.

Said Beaty: “The thing that Peyton helps you with, his release is so dag-gum quick it’s different than most. He can get the ball off a lot. He got hit a few times and you almost don’t see it, because he can trigger it quick.”

KU’s passing attack allowed the offense to get by with a pedestrian rushing attack, which averaged only 2.9 yards per carry (73 total yards), led by true freshman Dom Williams’ 10-rush, 41-yard night, which included a 10-yard score in the third quarter. Though, as Beaty pointed out, SEMO’s defense often had far too many defenders up near the line of scrimmage to inspire Meacham to call more rushing plays. Plus, junior Taylor Martin, Beaty said, had to leave the game in the second quarter.

With junior linebacker Joe Dineen (15 total tackles, 2.5 for loss) making stops on repeat, the defense held SEMO to 264 yards (3.4 yards per snap), and 101 in the first half, which took pressure off the offense, especially when it hit some bumps for a stretch of the first half.

“I feel like it was big,” Dineen said of KU forcing SEMO to punt six times in the first half, “from the standpoint it shows people we didn’t take a step back from last year. Obviously we made some mistakes and we’ve got to get some stuff corrected but I think overall I was pretty happy with the effort and stuff we put out there.”

With Central Michigan up next on the non-conference schedule, Bender said the offense has to step up its productivity ahead of Week 2.

“We put our defense in a bad spot a few of the times tonight and they did a great job bailing us out,” Bender said. ‘They played tremendous all night. We’ve got to do a better job on first and second down, not put ourselves in bad positions.”

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

More news and notes from Kansas vs. SEMO


Joe Ross 4 years, 11 months ago

"Impressive" isn't the word I would use. Considering the level of competition, I would say it wasn't terrible. Some solid moments, indeed. Some areas need to be addressed as well.

Gerry Butler 4 years, 11 months ago

Ya, I have to agree with you Joe. - -I was/am having a little hard time really trying to see exactly how I feel about our performance - -best way is , like you say wasn't terrible, wasn't great. The only way to look at it is, it's a W and as a former Coach would say, we just keep sawing wood. - -Like Bender said the key is just little more consistency, , little by little, still takes time. ROCK CHALK ALL DAY LONG BABY

Bryce Landon 4 years, 11 months ago

KU looked brilliant at times and ordinary at other times. SEMO is very well coached, so give them credit for giving us some trouble like they did three seasons ago.

Based on what I heard on the radio broadcast last night, I'm standing by my prediction of a 4-8 record for KU this year.

John Fitzgerald 4 years, 11 months ago

It's hard to give this team an overall grade because there were some things that were really good and there were some things that were really bad. So I'm going to grade the units separately.

QB - C (Bender did some good things but he also threw 2 interceptions against a team picked to be near last in their conference in the FCS. One interception looked like it could have been a receiver running the wrong route and the other looked as if it was just a really good defensive play. But regardless turnovers are unacceptable.)

HB - D (I saw some good things from Dom and he's only a freshman. Having said that our RB's were a non factor. This needs fixed ASAP.)

OL - F (Our rushing attack was embarrassing and if it wasn't for Benders quick decisions and quick release they would have looked even worse in the pass rush.)

WR - A (This is a talented group and I'm excited to see Sims, Harrell, Ben Johnson, and others rack up the big plays this year.)

DL - D (I expected a lot from this group and they let down. They didn't get near as much pressure on the QB as they should have and the run defense was once again weak.)

LB - D (This is where I expected to see our run defense really improve through Dineen and Loneker but it did not. Also, I'm pretty sure I saw Dineen get ran over by their QB at one point. Simply embarrassing.)

DB - D (This group has a lot of work to do. They've opened up the door for every team to throw quick outs and bubble screens all game to avoid the rush from our experienced DL. This is going to be a very long year for them.)

ST - D - (Not a lot happened here but a crucial moment in the game was when Tyler Patrick fumbled on a punt return. That is inexcusable and lead to SEMO cutting the lead to 7 and killing our momentum.)

Overall this was a very disappointing game. It started out great and then once reality settled in we got to see the true KU. There is A LOT of work that needs to be done and it needs to be done quick. Our only saving grace is that it took CMU 3 OT's to beat URI at home.

Brett McCabe 4 years, 11 months ago

While reviewing this game in your head, keep in mind, SEMO is predicted to finish 7th and a 9-team conference.

A few impressive moments in an otherwise underwhelming performance. They did nothing to help fill the stands next week and they left me wondering if my four hours could have been better spent somewhere else. The opening offensive series after half-time was some of the worst, most uninspired football I've seen in a long time, and we apparently didn't have time during fall camp to go over punt coverage. A very disappointing debut. Overall grade: D-plus.

On the good news front, the kicking game seems to be straightened out, the receiver corps is as good as advertised and our defensive backfield can only get better with experience.

Can't help but wonder if the weeklong love-fest with the '07 team didn't become a distraction. A note to the athletic department: the Glen Mason era at KU was an actual, real thing. I know because I watched it. Mason had a better conference record than Mangino, a 10-2 team ranked in the top ten that might have been better than the '07 team, a 2-0 bowl record during a much more selective bowl era and a bunch of guys ranked in the all-time top-ten statistically at KU. For an era that was, in some ways, superior to the Mangino stretch, it seems like KUAD doesn't realize it even happened.

Also, if anyone is listening, Memorial Stadium isn't a minor-league baseball arena. We have a band, it would be nice to hear them every once in awhile in place of the non-stop sonic assault from the loudspeaker. Get rid of that idiotic gong after scores, get rid of the idiotic music pre-third down and those animated games? Was that a second-grade coding project from a local school?

One thing is clear about this team: they are going to have to be much better than their opponents when it comes to in-season development. We need to get much better and we need to do it with some urgency. Here's hoping it shows up vs CMU.

Brett McCabe 4 years, 11 months ago

"in a 9-team conference". Too late to edit it.

Mike Barnhart 4 years, 11 months ago

The upside, we won! The downside, Bender only looks like a slight improvement at QB... maybe. Lost the turnover margin. Recorded one sack. Averaged under three yards a rush.

Not all that inspiring.

Joe Ross 4 years, 11 months ago

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.

Gerry Butler 4 years, 11 months ago

The reviews are ALWAYS inflated. That was one problem I had/have. As soon as he committed to play here it was like here comes the holy savior. Still I know it cliché but like you said yourself - -it's only one game in, got another week of work in practice, as far as the run -- Coach said the way SEMO was stacking up on the line was making it harder to rush the ball - -I dunno., Let's not start trashing the guys to bad - -it was a W - take it - -move on - and look for improvement next Saturday. - -ROCK CHALK ALL DAY LONG BABY

Joe Ross 4 years, 11 months ago

Here's an interesting question.

Liberty beat Baylor on Baylor's field. If Gill-led Liberty played Kansas on our field, would Turner actually manage a road win against a Big 12 foe (he did against Colorado if I recall)? If you answer "yes", then Gill has fared better than Kansas since their departure from one another. If you answer "no", then you are forced into another conversation: one that assumes Kansas is capable of beating Baylor.

Food for thought!

Gerry Butler 4 years, 11 months ago

Not sure what to think, some of the scores from yesterday were ridiculous , I mean Texas giving up 51 points at home, BUT they were playing a pretty salty team in Maryland, Still looks like Texas is STILL a team with lots of work to do --at least defensively. - - Baylor giving up 48 points to Liberty at home - - Whaaaaaa? - -League might not be very good other then Oklahoma, Okla St, KSU. - -Hell Mizzery scoring 70 plus yesterday but giving up close to 50 on defense, some of these scores just nuts. - --ROCK CHALK ALL DAY LONG BABY

Bryce Landon 4 years, 11 months ago

Maybe we have a shot to beat Baylor later this season.

But let's take care of Central Michigan first. That will be the truly defining game of this young season.

Michael Sillman 4 years, 11 months ago

Time will obviously tell the real story. Just because SEMO is picked to finish seventh in their league does not mean it will happen. They are a veteran team and appear to be well coached so they could fool the prognosticators.

For the first real live action, the Jayhawks did all right. The players and coaches clearly recognize that they will need to do better in the coming weeks.

David Robinett 4 years, 11 months ago

We all are disappointed it was not a blowout. Also disappointed not to see more of the running game. But let's look at the positives: a competent quarterback, a kicker who can put it in the end zone on every kick off , And they made field goal. We haven't had these for a few years so at least I'm happy about those things. Here's to hoping the boys continue to improve.

Richard Duran 4 years, 11 months ago

Did Charlot and Baldwin make it onto the field?

Bobby Nightengale 4 years, 11 months ago

Yes. Charlot had one catch in the second half that was called back because of an illegal block downfield.

Randy Bombardier 4 years, 11 months ago

Some very good positives from what I've seen. Harells carch, use of big Ben, some trickeration, Wises tackle from behind to prevent a first down was flat out amazing. Receivers and qb appeared to be in sync. Play calling was pretty good. Execution on most plays pretty good. Run blocking and back decision making needs work.

Still, a lot of positives. Special teans, meh. Can be better at return game. Would like ti see Mike Lee on returns as it will give him a hunger for returning picks instead of ringing the bell.

Titus Canby 4 years, 11 months ago

Positives: 1) Bender only missed a couple of open receivers. Given the number of passes thrown, that's really not too bad. 2) Bender also made a few terrific throws. Two of his fades in the end zone were perfect. And the bomb to Sims up the east sideline was a beauty. 3) Our pass protection was good. Only one sack all night? 4) Only a couple of drops. Again, not too bad. And there were some great catches.

David Robinett 4 years, 11 months ago

Bender also put it right in Harrells hands for the second potential touchdown that he dropped. I also believe he put great touch on a pass to I believe Ben Johnson down the right side line early in the game which Ben dropped.

You guys do remember that a few years ago we went in entire season without a passing touchdown, right?

Micky Baker 4 years, 11 months ago

It's so hard to grade a team after the first game, especially with so many newcomers at key positions and young guys in a lot of other spots. We're still quite away from filling up the available scholarship roster spots. I didn't get to watch the game, blacked out. But from what I could hear on the radio, there were times that Bender looked terrific as well as some of the receivers, but there is a lot of work to do. We should be able to get a much better guage on them next Saturday.

Richard Duran 4 years, 11 months ago

They did what they were supposed to do, beat a team that was than them by 3 TDs.

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