LAWRENCE — Kansas football has its starting quarterback.
Senior Peyton Bender will assume that role in Week 1, the team announced in a Tuesday afternoon Twitter post. Bender had been in a three-way competition with junior Carter Stanley and sophomore transfer Miles Kendrick.
KU opens its season with a 6 p.m. Sept. 1 contest against FCS-level foe Nicholls State at Memorial Stadium.
A 6-foot-1, 205-pound native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Bender won last year’s preseason competition for the starting role, fending off a challenge from Stanley. He finished his first season at KU with 1,609 passing yards, 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions across eight starts, completing 54.2 percent of his pass attempts.
Bender made the most of his opportunity to start the Jayhawks’ most recent season opener, throwing for 364 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in a 38-16 victory over Southeast Missouri State. Only publicly revealed as the team’s starter when he ran out for the team’s first drive, Bender became the first KU quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in a single game since Todd Reesing in 2009.
That contest would come to represent a rare highlight for both Bender and the Jayhawks, though, as the team scuffled the rest of the way en route to a 1-11 campaign.
Bender completed only 32 of 62 pass attempts (51.6 percent) in a 45-27 defeat in Week 2 to Central Michigan, throwing two interceptions. Bender also guided an offense that in back-to-back shutout defeats at Iowa State and TCU totaled a combined 127 yards, including a 21-yard performance against the Horned Frogs.
Bender lost his starting job after the defeat at TCU but regained it ahead of the team’s season finale at Oklahoma State, where he threw for 172 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in an eventual 58-17 defeat.
Speaking at the team’s Aug. 4 media day, Bender identified coverage recognition as the area he’s improved most this offseason.
“We did a lot of film study as a quarterback group this offseason just looking at different types of coverages, identifying different types of coverage and just where people are supposed to be,” Bender said. “I think that’s the biggest part of my game I was lacking because at Washington State we didn’t learn coverage and I really just started learning it when I got here. So I had a full, full offseason to really dial in on that.”
While the Jayhawks’ season opener is less than two weeks away, it is nevertheless the earliest a starting quarterback has been named in fourth-year coach David Beaty’s tenure. Beaty, who declined comment through a team spokesperson, is next scheduled to address the media during Monday’s first Big 12 football coaches teleconference.