Key play: A botched field-goal attempt turned into a positive when holder T.J. Millweard rolled out and found senior tight end Trent Smiley for a first down. KU scored its first touchdown on the 17-play drive.
Key stat: KU held the ball more than 9 minutes.
Key play: KU cornerback JaCorey Shepherd had a pick-six that would have given Kansas a 20-7 lead, but the play was called back after KU was caught in a late substitution and had 12 men on the field.
Key stat: TCU had just 24 rushing yards.
Key play: KU receiver Nigel King made a circus catch on the sideline, then sprinted 78 yards for a touchdown. The Jayhawks led 27-17 with 8:27 left in the quarter, its largest lead of the game.
Key stat: KU had 305 passing yards through three quarters.
Key play: On fourth and short in KU territory, TCU converted the first down and was able to bleed out the rest of the clock.
Key stat: TCU had 126 rushing yards in the second half.
Offense: A. After years of anemic passing numbers under Charlie Weis, the last few weeks have been a breath of fresh air. Quarterback Michael Cummings threw for 332 yards, the most by a KU quarterback since Todd Reesing threw for 338 against Duke in 2009. The Jayhawks also had two receivers go over 100 yards for the first time since 2009.
Defense: A. The Jayhawks held TCU to 11 points under their season average. This is a Horned Frogs offense that put up more than 80 points against Texas Tech and scored 41 on K-State last week. Senior cornerback JaCorey Shepherd has become a star on defense.
Special teams: C. Kansas had one very costly breakdown on special teams, allowing a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the third quarter. It ended up being the difference. They would never lead again. Punter Trevor Pardula outkicked his coverage, and TCU’s Cameron Echols-Luper found daylight.
Coaching: A. The Jayhawks caught plenty of breaks and bounces on Saturday. But one week after defeating Iowa State 34-14, Kansas went toe to toe with a top-five team that could end up in the College Football Playoff. A victory would have been huge for interim coach Clint Bowen, but a four-point loss that came down to a couple of possessions was still impressive.
Player of the Game: KU linebacker Ben Heeney. Heeney was his usual brilliant self, finishing with 11 total tackles. In his final home game, Heeney led a KU defense that held TCU to 34 points, close to 11 points below its season average.
Reason to hope: Quarterback Michael Cummings and receiver Nigel King. While Kansas will lose most of its starting defense to graduation, Cummings (332 passing yards) and King (128 receiving yards) will return next year. That’s a start on the offensive side.
Reason to mope: Kansas will finish with road trips to Oklahoma and Kansas State. Can the Jayhawks maintain the emotion and momentum away from home?
Looking ahead: The Jayhawks will travel to face a suddenly vulnerable Oklahoma (7-3) which had to rally to beat Texas Tech 42-30 on Saturday.
TCU coach Gary Patterson, who has his team in the running for the inaugural College Football Playoff, is a Kansas native and a long-time observer of the state’s two FBS programs.
After TCU’s 34-30 victory over Kansas, Patterson was asked if KU interim coach Clint Bowen should be hired on in a full-time capacity.
“He cares about KU,” Patterson said, “that’s the ultimate No. 1. The same thing happens with (Bill) Snyder at Kansas State; he cares about Kansas State. I think Kansas people deserve somebody like that. I think that’s the kind of people they are here; they want somebody who’s going to care about them (and) also be a good ball coach.
“Unless they find somebody better out there, but to me it would be hard to be any better than what they played today.”
That successful fake field goal? It was not planned. When Kansas lined up for a 40-yard field goal in the first quarter, holder T.J. Millweard was supposed to put the ball down for sophomore kicker Matthew Wyman. But when the snap was low and Millweard bobbled the ball, his quarterback instincts took over. A transfer quarterback from UCLA, Millweard rolled to his left and found senior tight end Trent Smiley for the first down.
“(I) just tried to stick it in there on Trent,” Millweard said, “and Trent made a great play, and he deserves all the credit.”
The first down kept the drive alive, and Kansas would finish it off with a touchdown, cutting TCU’s early lead to 7-6 midway through the first quarter.
▪ Senior Jimmay Mundine continued a torrid stretch with seven catches for 137 yards on Saturday. Mundine racked up the most yards by a Kansas tight end since 1974. He was also the first KU tight end to go over 100 yards since 1995, when Dwayne Chandler accomplished the feat. The highlight came on a 67-yard catch-and-run that saw Mundine run through a bevy of would-be tacklers.
“I didn’t want to get tackled tonight,” Mundine said. “I feel like the game really slowed down for me today.”
▪ The Jayhawks honored 21 seniors during a ceremony before the game, including 13 starters. Among those seniors was starting right guard Ngalu Fusimalohi, who missed the game after being injured last week.