LAWRENCE — The Les Miles era at Kansas football began with a triumph, but not unlike his ventures in Hollywood, it wasn’t without its share of suspense.
Miles and KU defeated Indiana State 24-17 on Saturday at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, the first contest following the former national championship-winning coach’s high-profile offseason hiring. The Jayhawks coughed up a 13-point fourth-quarter lead but recovered in the final minutes, with starting quarterback Carter Stanley engineering a go-ahead drive — with help from some larger-than-life performances by wideouts Daylon Charlot and Andrew Parchment.
Here’s how it happened.
The Jayhawks (1-0) rode a 57-yard interception return for a touchdown by senior cornerback Hasan Defense to a 10-3 advantage at the half. Both offenses struggled to get anything going before the break — KU averaged 4.9 yards per play, 3.7 yards per pass attempt and turned the ball over on an off-the-mark backwards pass in Indiana State territory. The Sycamores (0-1), meanwhile, missed a pair of 45-plus-yard field goal attempts.
Safety Jeremiah McCullough’s goal-line interception killed Indiana State’s first drive of the second half, setting up Stanley — who handled the entire contest — and the Jayhawks’ first touchdown drive of the season. Stanley found Andrew Parchment (27-yard completion), Daylon Charlot (12) and Parchment again (32) on consecutive pass attempts, and on third-and-9 from the Sycamore 10, Stanley connected with tight end James Sosinski on the score, giving KU a 16-3 lead after a missed extra point.
The Sycamores didn’t roll over, though. After recovering a Stanley fumble on a fourth-and-2 attempt from the Indiana State 21, they orchestrated a 14-play, 77-yard scoring drive, with Ryan Boyle finding Dante Jones with a 26-yard touchdown strike down the middle on a fourth-and-8.
Indiana State forced another punt and took over at its own 15 with 8:20 remaining and got as far as the Jayhawk 31, but linebacker Dru Prox came up big with a drive-killing third-down sack that forced a Sycamore punt.
That’s when disaster struck. Stanley, loading up to make a throw near his goal line, was drilled by Indiana State’s Kaleb Brewer and fumbled. The ball was recovered in the end zone by the Sycamores’ Inoke Moala, who gave the visiting squad a 17-16 lead with 4:24 remaining.
But Stanley didn’t let the moment faze him, and neither did his wideouts. Parchment and Charlot had huge catches to extend the ensuing drive, and Stanley connected with a leaping Charlot in the back of the end zone on a 22-yard scoring strike. KU took a 24-17 lead on the two-point conversion attempt, a Parchment-to-Jack Luavasa trick play conversion.
Indiana State couldn’t convert a fourth-and-2 from its own 33 on the ensuing drive, and the celebration on the sideline and in the stands was on. Moments after the clock struck zero, “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra began playing throughout the stadium, a new tradition installed by Miles, a New York Yankees fan.
KU’s season continues with another home matchup at 6 p.m. Saturday against Coastal Carolina.