RENO, Nev. (AP) — Devin Neal and Daniel Hishaw Jr. combined for 137 rushing yards and four touchdowns, Jalon Daniels threw for 298 yards, and Kansas pulled away from Nevada in the fourth quarter for a 31-24 victory Saturday night at Mackay Stadium.
The game was tied at 24-all when Daniels went 4-for-4 for 55 yards, leading to Neal’s third touchdown on a 3-yard run and a 31-24 lead with 6:20 left to play.
Nevada was not able to cross midfield on its final two possessions.
“We found a way,” Jayhawks coach Lance Leipold said. “We did not play our sharpest. We had too many penalties.
“But at the same time, I’m proud of our team for persevering and finding a way. In the end, we found a way to get a big stop and come away here with a win. And road wins aren’t easy.”
The Jayhawks (3-0) were a 28-point favorite at Nevada sports books.
The Wolf Pack (0-3) was looking to end the nation’s longest losing streak. The now 13-game skid under second-year coach Ken Wilson is also the longest in program history.
“It was a great effort by those men in that locker room,” Wilson said. “They came back after (a 33-6 loss to Idaho) last week and they battled their asses off all night. They never backed down.”
Quarterback Brendon Lewis led Nevada with 113 passing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
“Credit Coach Wilson and Nevada for coming ready to play and playing hard and playing downhill and physical all day long,” Leipold said.
Leipold was especially pleased with Daniels’ poise down the stretch.
“We struggled a little bit in pass protection, and he was scrambling a little bit,” he said. “But 21-for-27, that’s a pretty darn good day.”
Safety Kenny Logan had a team-high nine tackles, 2 1/2 for loss, to lead the Jayhawks.
Neither team could muster much offense in the first half, but the second half was a shootout. They combined for 20 points on 247 yards in the first half but had 35 points on 461 yards in the second.
The teams used long pass plays to trade three touchdowns in a span of 2 minutes, 7 seconds late in the third quarter. Daniels connected with tight end Mason Fairchild on a 29-yard pass to the Nevada 1.
Two plays after Hishaw’s subsequent TD, Nevada’s Dalevon Campbell hauled in a 53-yard pass from Lewis to set up a short TD run by Sean Dollars to tie it at 17.
On the next play, Daniels and Neal connected on a 59-yard pass to the Nevada 1, leading to a Neal TD and a 24-17 lead that Kansas took into the fourth quarter.
Lewis’ second TD run, from 2 yards out, with 10:37 to play knotted the score at 24 and set up Daniels’ heroics down the stretch.
The Jayhawks embarked on a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on the game’s first possession, moving the ball with ease and scoring on Neal’s 3-yard run. But the Wolf Pack defense stiffened – with the help of five Kansas penalties – and allowed just 75 yards on 23 plays the rest of the half.
Dollars scored on a 3-yard run in the final minute and the teams went into the locker room tied at 10-10 despite Nevada having just 97 total yards of offense.
The Jayhawks opened with three consecutive wins for the second straight season. Kansas stretched it to 5-0 in 2022 before losing seven of its final eight games. This marks KU’s first back-to-back 3-0 starts since 1991-92 under head coach Glen Mason.
Kansas: Will host BYU (3-0) on Saturday in what will be the Cougars’ first Big 12 Conference game. BYU had been independent the previous 12 years before joining the Big 12 this season.
Nevada: Travels to San Marcos, Texas to take on the Sun Belt’s Texas State Bobcats (2-1) on Saturday. Texas State is the last team Nevada defeated, 38-14, on Sept. 3, 2022, in Reno.