"I was glad the quarterback didn't have it on target because they would have won the game," Kansas Coach Mark Mangino said afterward.
The offense, for both sides, was strong, while each defense left a lot to be desired. The two teams combined for 1,063 yards, 77 points and plenty of fireworks, courtesy of each quarterback.
Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing completed 75 percent of his passes for 442 yards and four touchdowns to one interception. Reesing's 442 yards were the second-most ever for a Kansas quarterback. As usual, Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe caught most of those passes. Meier snagged a Kansas record 16 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Briscoe had 12 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns. The Jayhawks also received a strong performance from running back Toben Opurum, who rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown, while helping to protect Reesing.
"I really want to point out Toben Opurum … because he played every down that we had a running back in the game," Mangino said. "He ran the ball hard and he was tired in the fourth quarter, but he continued to run. He pass-protected nearly flawlessly."
The offensive line as a whole earned kudos from Mangino for their performance, which included a sack-less game for Cyclone defenders.
"The offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage all night," Mangino said. "It was one of the finest jobs of pass protection that I think I've ever been associated with in a single game."
But the game was still in doubt, thanks largely to exceptional performances by Arnaud, who was 25-40 for 293 yards passing and added another 67 yards on the ground, and Alexander Robinson, who rushed for a career-high 152 yards and two touchdowns.
"As a football team, sometimes one side of the ball or the other carries you," Mangino said. "Today the offense carried us, but I don't think we are as bad on defense as we played today."
The Jayhawks took a two-score lead with 8:42 left in the game on a six-yard pass from Reesing to Meier, and Jayhawk fans seemed to take a collective breath of relief at the added distance. But Arnaud led the Cyclones on a 69-yard drive back down the field, capping it with a five-yard pass to Darius Darks, pulling Iowa State to within five.
That was where the score sat when Iowa State received the ball back at the Cyclone 34. Two first downs later, the Cyclones had a first down at the Kansas 32, needing a touchdown for the victory. That's where the defense held, limiting Iowa State to one yard on the first three downs, then getting the ball back on Arnaud's overthrow.
"On the defensive side of the ball, it was not a pretty picture," Mangino said. "I want to give credit to Iowa State … having said all that, we did not play well on defense, and we have to get better. We know what the issues are, and we have to get them corrected on the practice field."
The tough loss was the second close one in as many weeks for the Cyclones, who lost 24-23 on a blocked extra point to Kansas State last week.
The Cyclones (3-3, 0-2) will now return home to play Baylor, while Kansas (5-0, 1-0) will play its first conference road game of the season, traveling to Boulder to take on the Colorado Buffaloes.
- Iowa State — Alexander Robinson 1 run (kick failed), 10:32 1Q
- Kansas — Toben Opurum 1 run (kick failed), 4:08 1Q
- ISU — Robinson 7 run (kick failed), 10:02 2Q
- KU — Kerry Meier 3 pass from Todd Reesing (Jacob Branstetter kick), 3:37 2Q
- KU — Reesing 4 run (Branstetter kick), 0:30 2Q
- ISU — Grant Mahoney 34 FG, 9:58 3Q
- ISU — Austen Arnaud 2 run (Jake Williams pass from Arnaud), 6:45 3Q
- KU — Dezmon Briscoe 23 pass from Reesing (Branstetter kick), 4:10 3Q
- ISU — Marquis Hamilton 17 pass from Arnaud (Mahoney kick), 1:21 3Q
- KU — Briscoe 44 pass from Reesing (Branstetter kick), 14:26 4Q
- KU — Meier 6 pass from Reesing (Branstetter kick), 8:42 4Q
- ISU — Darius Darks 5 pass from Arnaud (pass failed), 4:55 4Q
* The win made Kansas 5-0 to start the season for just the fourth time since 1921. Kansas started 11-0 in 2007, 7-0 in 1995 and 7-0 in 1968. The victory also made Kansas 27-4 in Memorial Stadium since 2005 and 15-4 against North opponents in their last 19 games.
* The game marked the first career start for freshman linebacker Huldon Tharp and sophomore cornerback Ryan Murphy. Tharp had two tackles on the day, while Murphy had four tackles, Kansas's only sack, a pass broken up and two quarterback hurries.
* Both Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe made career history on Saturday, as both passed Mark Simmons as Kansas's career receptions leader. Meier, by strength of his four more catches, now leads Briscoe by two career catches, 167 to 165. But Meier will have a way to go before he catches Briscoe in yards. The junior wide receiver moved into first place in Kansas history in receiving yards with 2,420. Briscoe also has the crown in touchdown catches with 25, to Meier's 15 touchdowns. Meier's numbers are tied for fifth in Kansas history.