The Kansas Jayhawks are bowl-eligible for the first time since 2008.
They got their ticket with a dominant 37-16 home win on Saturday against number 18 Oklahoma State, led by a brilliant game from running back Devin Neal, who carried 32 times to 224 and a score.
“That’s what makes it more special,” Neal said of growing up in Lawrence just a few miles away from the stadium. “When I committed, a lot of people asked me why I would waste my career there.
“Looking back now, being able to do what we did is very special. It means so much more to me, especially since I grew up here just two miles from campus.”
The victory broke a three-game losing streak for Kansas, which started the season 5-0. Bowl eligibility seemed like a foregone conclusion, but after quarterback Jalon Daniels was defeated by the TCU in Game #6 and the schedule got tougher, it was less certain.
“I’m really proud of our guys and our team,” said Kansas coach Lance Leipold. “To be able to do something like that is very special.”
Quarterback Jason Bean had his best game since being placed in the starter, completing 18 of 23 passes for 203 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also scored on a 73-yard rush and finished with 93 yards on the ground.
Kansas’ last bowl appearance was a win over Minnesota in the 2008 Insight Bowl under head coach Mark Mangino, who left after the 2009 season. None of the four coaches who followed him – Turner Gill, Charlie Weis, David Beaty and Les Miles – won more than three games in a season, let alone the six needed for bowl eligibility.
The Jayhawks’ turnaround under head coach Lance Leipold was swift. After winning just two games in their debut last season, Kansas climbed to 19th in the AP poll this year, ahead of a three-game losing streak. It was the first time the Jayhawks had appeared in the AP poll since 2009.