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Matt Tait: KU RB Devin Neal dazzles again in loss to Texas Tech

Kansas quarterback Jason Bean hands off to running back Devin Neal (4) during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Texas Tech on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Justin Rex)

The kinds of mistakes that the Kansas football program has largely avoided throughout the season hurt the Jayhawks in a big way Saturday night in Lubbock, Texas.

Two missed field goals and two turnovers by Kansas quarterback Jason Bean played a huge role in Texas Tech’s 43-28 win over Kansas that dropped the Jayhawks to 6-4 overall, 3-4 in Big 12 play and 1-4 in their last five games.

Related document

Box Score: Texas Tech 43, Kansas 28 ( .PDF )

As it has done all season, KU showed plenty of heart and fight to even be in the game after starting in a 24-7 hole. But it also felt like a game that Kansas will look back on as one it should have won.

Let’s not let the result of Saturday’s game — or any other game for that matter — overshadow one of the most important elements of what’s happening with this football program right now.

You’ve all known for a while that Devin Neal is a talented running back full of fire, fight and determination. But it’s time to recognize that he has a chance to go down as one of the greatest Kansas running backs of all time.

He’s still got some work to do to get there. But after what we’ve seen from Neal during the past two weeks — 414 yards on 56 carries as the absolute workhorse back for the Kansas offense — it’s not hard to see more monster days ahead for the Lawrence native.

Consider this: Entering this season, KU had just 19 200-yard rushing games in program history. Neal had No. 20 last week against Oklahoma State and came up just 10 yards shy of becoming the first Kansas player ever to top 200 yards rushing in consecutive games.

Credit the O-Line and KU’s play calling for some of that. But credit Neal for the bulk of it.

When you think Kansas running backs, who comes to mind?

Gale Sayers is automatic. Tony Sands, Jon Cornish, June Henley and John Riggins are likely. Brandon McAnderson and Jake Sharp were absolute gems during the program’s best years. And, if you’ve been paying attention during the recent lean years, you might think of James Sims and Pooka Williams Jr., as well.

By the time Neal’s done, he’ll be right in there with those guys. And, believe it or not, he’s already closing in on it.

Neal’s 190 yards on Saturday night pushed his total this season to 951 yards. That’s good for 17th on KU’s single-season rushing list.

With three games still to play this season, counting the bowl game — yeah, it’s still a little weird to write that — Neal has a realistic shot at climbing into the No. 4 spot on the single-season list.

Laverne Smith currently has that locked down, with his 1,181-yard season of 1974.

Looking at the even bigger picture, the No. 4 spot on KU’s career rushing list also appears to be in range. Smith also owns that, with 3,074 rushing yards from 1973-76.

Neal’s already halfway to that number in fewer than two full seasons, with 1,658 career rushing yards.

Like most of the players on this Kansas roster, Neal would trade all of those yards and individual achievements for team success.

But it’s still pretty cool that the Jayhawk who wears No. 4 has a pretty good shot of climbing into the No. 4 spot on both of KU’s most important rushing lists.

If he gets there, that will do plenty for the team’s success during the next couple of years.

Comments

Rodney Crain

So is the path to the Big 12 Championship game still possible Matt?

This season was more than most hoped for. Going to a bowl game gives the coaches a lot of extra practices which will pay dividends for us next year. We can still beat Texas but there is no way we are going to beat K-State. Come on we are in Remy Martin in the NCAA rarefied air right now. It has been a pretty good season.

Do you think TT would let us have the pieces of their old stadium they are not going to use anymore? If they are going to just throw them away we could use them. It would be a step up from what we have and all it would cost is transportation and setup.

3 weeks, 1 day ago

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Matt Tait

I know you probably weren't asking for real, but, in case you were, it's probably not in play any longer.

With a lot of help and 2 wins, Kansas MIGHT be able to finish with the same number of losses as one or two other teams behind TCU, but I doubt KU would fair well in the multi-team tiebreaker scenarios.

I'll have to look into it more.

Tonight's one they'll regret. Probably should've won and it was there for the taking.

*** Just did a quick look. And I think this is where it stands: If KU winds up tied with K-State and Texas for 2nd (which would mean KU would have to win out by beating those two teams, K-State would have to lose out and Baylor would have to lose to TCU), then KU would have a 2-0 record against the teams it's tied with and would therefore get the nod. I think.

Looking more closely later...

3 weeks, 1 day ago

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Dirk Medema

So you’re saying there’s a chance?

Gotta love it.

3 weeks, 1 day ago

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Rodney Crain

One of the best movie quotes in the last 50 years!

3 weeks ago

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Len Shaffer

With Jason's last play, we once again clearly saw the difference between him and Jalon.

Even though their stats might be relatively similar, I don't think any of us can feel that confident with him at the end of a close game, whereas Jalon has shown he can come through in those pressure situations.

There's simply no excuse for Jason standing in the pocket that long and not seeming to know that he was about to get sacked.

But that play actually didn't even bother me as much as a play early in the game. He was getting chased out of the pocket and simply ran out of bounds for a 4-yard loss. Why in the hell didn't he just throw the ball out of bounds??? And that's not the first time he's done that type of thing. I can't for the life of me understand why he would take a loss rather than just throwing the ball away.

Yes, he made a lot of great plays in this game as well, but you just can't trust him. In that way, he reminds me a bit of Jimmy Garoppolo, although Garoppolo has obviously had a lot more success.

3 weeks, 1 day ago

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Pamela Shanks

I've been thinking the same thing for several games. His decision-making under pressure is just not the same as demonstrated by JD in the early games. I lived in the Bay Area for several years, and I agree with the Jimmy G comparison. It is so frustrating to watch chances slip away like that. It's like he is just trying too hard at times. That said, he has had moments of greatness, and I am thankful he stuck with KU. He appears to be a player who really cares, and he has been an important part of KU's success this year.

I perked up when the announcers said JD might be back next week. Any news to report on that front, Matt?

3 weeks, 1 day ago

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Dale Rogers

He also doesn't see the whole field like JD6 does. Too many open receivers not seen.

3 weeks, 1 day ago

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Dale Rogers

I'm not ready to say we can't beat the K-kitties. If Daniels is back and we take our A game, it's doable. We were also told we can't beat Texas, last season, as 31.5 point underdogs.

That said, I was concerned during the game that we were not using more than one RB to mix things up until Ky Thomas, late in the game. Thomas had some nice runs but it seemed like having a second RB in the game might keep the defense honest.

3 weeks, 1 day ago

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Edward Daub

John Riggins has to join Gale Sayers as Automatic. They are both in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (along with Mike McCormack).

Leipold is driving the hot hand in Neal, but I am afraid he is going to burn him out with too many carries.

What happened to our depth at running back?

As for Daniels, it will be interesting to see whether Zac Boyer was correct (out for regular season).

I can envision Jalon Daniels playing next in the (almost for sure) bowl game.

As for holding on to Lance and company, they need another pay raise. Rock Chalk!

Lance Leipold is the lowest paid coach in the Big 12!

3 weeks ago

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