98 Days: Grading Kansas Football Year 3 Under Leipold, Pt.2

We finish up our look back at last year to set the table for the upcoming season.
Dec 26, 2023; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jason Bean (9) celebrates with the trophy after defeating the UNLV Rebels at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 26, 2023; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jason Bean (9) celebrates with the trophy after defeating the UNLV Rebels at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
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On yesterday's entry to the countdown, we graded the first half of last season's results that had a second consecutive 5-1 start. Today, we finish up our grades before turning our attention to the offseason for the Kansas Jayhawks.

So let's get into the grades for the second half of the year, plus an overall grade of year 3 on the field for the Jayhawks.

Week 7: at Oklahoma State

Result: 39-32 Loss

The Jayhawks missed a big opportunity to make a statement in the Big 12 race as they surrendered 15 straight points in the last 20 minutes of the game after an up and down performance. Jason Bean had five touchdown passes and amassed 410 yards in the air, but two key interceptions kept the Jayhawks from closing this one out. The running game was stifled, only totaling 90 yards on the ground, while Ollie Gordon had 168 yards against the Kansas defense.

The defense was unable to create mistakes from the Oklahoma State offense, and while Jason Bean was much improved, he had too many key errors down the stretch in this one.

Grade: C

Week 8: vs #6 Oklahoma

Result: 38-33 Win

With Jason Bean getting his third straight start, the Jayhawks achieved bowl eligibility for the second straight season against a team from the state of Oklahoma at home. After the offense failed to convert a 4th down try on the first drive, Mello Dotson snagged an errant Dillon Gabriel pass and took it to the end zone. The defense kept it up with a sack on 4th down deep in their own territory to allow Daniel Hishaw to give the Jayhawks a two-score lead. But three straight touchdown drives for the Sooners helped them take a 21-17 lead into the half after a long rain delay.

The second half had all the drama, as Kansas pulled within one after a field goal, forced a turnover, and then the two teams traded 2 touchdowns each with failed two-point conversions. Two late interceptions had Kansas fans worried about another late collapse, but the defense came up big and gave the Jayhawks a final chance to score. The defense then sealed the game with a red zone stand as the clock ran out.

It's tempting to point to all the mistakes that Kansas made in this one to knock the grade down a bit, but any time you can break an 18-game losing streak AND get final bragging rights for the forseeable future, you have to respect that.

Grade: A+

Week 9: at Iowa State

Result: 28-21 Win

A single score in each quarter was enough to pace the Jayhawks against the Cyclones in a game that they never trailed. It was their first win in Ames since the 2008 season, and the first consecutive conference wins since that same season.

Jason Bean only needed one touchdown pass, an 80-yard strike to Lawrence Arnold to open up a 10-point lead, to lead the Jayhawks to a win, as Devin Neal punched in two runs and Mello Dotson returned an interception for a score for the second straight week.

Grade: B+

Week 10: vs Texas Tech Red Raiders

Result: 16-13 Loss

Kansas lost Bean in the first half to an injury, pushing former walk-on turned backup quarterback Cole Ballard into the lineup. The true freshman didn't light up the stat sheet, but he was serviceable in his emergency action, passing for 124 yards and throwing one interception. Devin Neal led the Jayhawks with 137 of the 207 rushing yards, but Kansas missed multiple opportunities to score after the Red Raiders jumped out to a 10-0 lead. A 13-point fourth quarter was just a little bit short, and there was plenty to worry about heading into the next week with the status of QB1 and QB2 uncertain.

Grade: D

Week 11: vs #21 Kansas State

Result: 31-27 Loss

Cole Ballard had a relatively impressive first start as the Jayhawks hosted the Wildcats in a ranked matchup. While his stat line only showed 162 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions, he was poised for most of the night and gave the Jayhawks plenty of chances to win the game.

The Jayhawks built an 11-point lead coming out of half, as Ballard had his deepest pass of the night to Mason Fairchild to set up Devin Neal in the red zone. But Ballard had both of his interceptions after that, and a dropped interception on the final scoring drive kept the Jayhawks from holding on for the huge win.

Grade: B-

Week 12: at Cincinnati

Result: 49-16 Win

Jason Bean returned from his injury to lead the Jayhawks in a game that was never really in doubt. The Bearcats took an early 3-0 lead, but Kansas had 3 touchdowns in each of the 2nd and 4th quarters as the defense dominated Cincinnati to end the season with 8 wins.

Grade: A

Guaranteed Rate Bowl: vs UNLV

Result: 48-36 Win

Jason Bean had a finale to remember as he threw for six touchdown passes to help set multiple Guaranteed Rate Bowl records. Luke Grimm and Lawrence Arnold each had three touchdown receptions, and the running game still totaled 142 yards as the Jayhawks answered an opening drive touchdown from the Rebels with 28 straight points.

Things got a bit dicey in the third quarter as Kansas had two interceptions and UNLV had the ball with a chance to take the lead. But a quick three-and-out kick-started another Kansas explosion on offense, and three straight touchdowns plus a long drive for a turnover on downs sealed the final margin.

Grade: A


The Jayhawks got off to another hot start in the first half of the year, but this time they were able to split games on the back half to get a respectable spot in the postseason. Injuries derailed what many thought might have been a special season for Jalon Daniels, but instead we got to see the Jason Bean redemption tour, erasing any hard feelings from the final play of the Liberty Bowl in the year prior.

With most of the major pieces from last year's offense eligible to return, the Jayhawks gave their fans a preview of what we might be able to see if Daniels can stay healthy. And while the defense still had some big warts, the staff was able to replace some really big pieces that left due to graduation/NFL/transfers and still improve on the prior season.

Overall Grade: A-

Andy Mitts


Andy Mitts is an alumnus of the University of Kansas, graduating in 2007. He previously covered the Jayhawks at Rock Chalk Talk and is now the editor-in-chief at Blue Wing Rising. He hosts the Kansas-themed Rock Chalk Podcast, and is VP of Membership of the Ten 12 Podcast Network. Follow him on Twitter @AndyMitts12.