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Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels headlines 34-23 victory over Illinois in season debut

Kansas tight end Jared Casey (47) is tackled in the end zone by Illinois defensive back Miles Scott (10) after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, in Lawrence, Kan.

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Jalon Daniels threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns in his season debut, Devin Neal ran for 120 yards and a score, and Kansas beat Illinois 34-23 on Friday night in the first meeting between the Power Five schools since 1968.

Daniel Hishaw added 98 yards rushing and a touchdown, and Lawrence Arnold had five catches for 89 yards, as the Jayhawks (2-0) put up nearly 300 yards of offense in the first half and finished with 543 for the game,

The Illini’s Luke Altmyer threw for 202 yards and a touchdown while running for 70 and two more scores, and he showed some moxie by bouncing back from a crushing blow from Kansas defensive lineman Austin Booker to lead a fourth-quarter rally.

The Illini (1-1) trailed 34-7 before Altmyer scored both of his TDs on the ground, and the 2-point conversions got them within 34-23 late in the fourth quarter. But the Illinois quarterback was picked off with 1:59 to go, ending the comeback bid

Daniels showed no signs of rust — and how much more dynamic the Kansas offense is with him under center — after he missed last week’s opener against Missouri State with a sore back. Daniels led a 10-play, 82-yard TD march the first time he touched the ball, then added two more touchdown drives to help Kansas to a 21-0 lead.

The Illini, meanwhile, were going nowhere: four drives, four punts. And when they finally put together a sustained series, with Altmyer hitting five straight passes and Tip Rieman hauling in a short TD pass, Daniels made them pay for leaving 41 seconds on the clock. He quickly completed a 48-yard pass to set up Hishaw’s touchdown run.

The Jayhawks extended their lead to 34-7 with a pair of field goals before Illinois finally got a big play. Altmyer escaped the pocket on third-and-18 and found nobody ahead of him, running untouched 72 yards for the score.

The Illini kept their momentum going when Xavier Scott picked off a jump ball in the end zone on the ensuing possession, and Altmyer swiftly led them the other way. After six completions, the Illini quarterback ran it into the end zone himself.

Suddenly, the Jayhawks’ lead was down to 34-23 with just over 8 minutes to play.

Illinois got the ball again with about 4 minutes to go, but Altmyer’s hot streak finally ended. After he completed a long throw to convert fourth-and-long, the Ole Miss transfer was picked by the Jayhawks’ Kwinton Lassiter to put the game away.


Big Ten referee Larry Smith and his crew had a tough time with targeting penalties. They didn’t call the penalty on Austin Booker until Illini coach Bret Bielema demanded the play be reviewed, and only then was the Kansas defensive tackle kicked out of the game. The crew later called targeting on the Illini’s Tarique Barnes but overturned that one on review. And a third flag for targeting resulted in Kansas defensive back Cobee Bryant’s ejection in the fourth quarter.


Illinois was dominated on the both sides of the ball most of the game, despite coming back in the fourth quarter, and the frustration was evident in the jawing that took place throughout the game; defensive tackle Keith Randolph Jr. was called for unsportsmanlike conduct at one point.

Kansas got pressure up front all night. Booker and Jereme Robinson each had two sacks and the Jayhawks had six as a team.

Illinois plays No. 7 Penn State next Saturday.
Kansas visits Nevada next Saturday night.

Picture of Associated Press

Associated Press

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