LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas followed one of the worst losses in school history with a big upset over No. 15 Georgia Tech.
A week getting stung by North Dakota State in Turner Gill’s coaching debut for the Jayhawks, Kansas put Jordan Webb in at quarterback and promptly turned it around.
Webb threw three touchdown passes, Kansas beat the Yellow Jackets 28-25 and all the sudden that season-opening stinker is a memory.
“There was a big sense of urgency,” said wide receiver Daymond Patterson, who caught a short pass and turned it into a tackle-breaking 32-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. “This week, every little thing we needed to fix, we fixed it. We kept going over it and over it.”
“There was never any doubt that we could beat them,” he said. “Not too long ago, we won the Orange Bowl. We were ranked.”
Indeed, the win was the Jayhawks’ biggest since their victory over Virginia Tech in the 2008 Orange Bowl.
“You take every football season one game at a time,” said Webb, a redshirt freshman who replaced Kale Pick. “But it’s definitely a huge win.”
The defending ACC champion Yellow Jackets (1-1) were favored by two touchdowns over the team that lost to a mediocre Missouri Valley bunch 6-3. But they dropped several passes and aided Kansas scoring drives with a 13-yard punt, a roughing-the-passer penalty and a kickoff that went out of bounds and let the Jayhawks start on the 40.
“They came out mad,” said Yellow Jacket quarterback Joshua Nesbitt. “You could tell that they came out mad from losing their last game and they came out hungry.”
Nesbitt scored on runs of 9 and 4 yards, giving him five rushing touchdowns in two games. The Yellow Jackets’ potent ground game amassed 291 yards and Nesbitt, who completed just one pass in a lopsided victory the week before over South Carolina State, threw for 116 yards and a TD.
“It was a matter of us beating ourselves today,” said Georgia Tech running back Anthony Allen. “We were doing the little things wrong. I feel like we came out flat. We weren’t as hyped and we weren’t as ready as we were supposed to be.”
Capping a tumultuous eight days which included the abrupt retirement of controversial athletic director Lew Perkins, the Jayhawks (1-1) rolled up 407 yards of total offense and broke an eight-game losing streak which stretched back to last year and now-departed head coach Mark Mangino.
Freshman running back James Sims, who didn’t even play against North Dakota State, carried 17 times for 101 yards and a touchdown.
“It’s just one ball game,” Gill said. “We’re here to be successful over a long period of time, many years. One game doesn’t define our program.”
After Nesbitt connected with Stephen Hill on a 40-yard touchdown pass and again on the 2-point conversion, the Yellow Jackets closed to within 3 points with 7:48 to go.
In the final minutes, Georgia Tech faced a fourth-and-3 from its own 35. But a false start penalty pushed them back 5 yards and Nesbitt missed on a fourth-down pass.
Webb’s TD passes covered 15 yards to Bradley McDougald, 2 to Tim Biere and 32 to Patterson, who took the ball in the flat, broke free from a pack of tacklers, then broke another tackle in the secondary and dived into the end zone for a 28-17 lead.
Webb finished 18 of 29 for 179 yards.
“It’s great for our staff, great for our players, great for our alumni and great for our student body,” said Gill. “We’ll enjoy this one for about 24 hours and then we have to get ready for the next one.”
The Yellow Jackets are probably in for the same kind of week Kansas just put in.
“You know, to be honest, we didn’t really look like we were ready to play,” said Georgia Tech linebacker Kyle Jackson. “We came out kind of dull. We had a big stop that first drive on defense, and then I think we got a little lax.”