Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels shined in his return to the to the starting lineup as the Jayhawks survived a late comeback bid from Illinois to secure a 34-23 home win on Friday. Daniels, who missed the Week 1 matchup against Missouri State with a back injury, finished 21 of 29 for 280 yards with two touchdowns. He led the Jayhawks to touchdowns on four of their first five possessions.
After Kansas built a 34-7 lead midway through the third quarter, Illinois tried to make things interesting with back-to-back scores to pull within 11 points. With 1:59 to go in the game and the Fighting Illini driving to cut even deeper into the Jayhawks’ lead, Kansas defensive back Kwinton Lassiter picked off Illinois quarterback Luke Altmyer to ice the win.
“Some penalties and adversity, they got the momentum a little bit,” Kansas coach Lance Leipold said postgame. “We turned the ball over. We weren’t getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback, but we got some turnovers when we needed it. Really proud of the resiliency of this football team.”
Kansas (2-0) scored on a 10-play, 82-yard drive to open the game and had three touchdown drives of at least 80 yards for the first time since 2014. Jayhawks RB Devin Neal rushed for 120 yards on only 10 attempts and scored a touchdown. Lawrence Arnold finished with a team-high 89 yards receiving.
Illinois (1-1) also struggled in its Week 1 matchup against Toldeo, surviving a close call after Caleb Griffin converted on a 29-yard field goal with seconds left to give the Illini a 30-28 win. Illinois opens up Big Ten play against Penn State at home on Saturday.
Kansas has now moved to 2-0 for the second consecutive season. The Jayhawks move on to a matchup with Nevada next week and open Big 12 play against BYU on Sept. 16. They will likely be favored in both outings before a pivotal home game against Texas on Sept. 23.