LAWRENCE (AP) — Jordan Webb hit B.J. Beshears with a 6-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 9 seconds to go and Kansas escaped with a wild, back-and-forth 45-42 victory over Northern Illinois on Saturday night.
After Jasmin Hopkins’ 1-yard run put the Huskies on top 42-38 with 5:03 left in the seesaw slugfest, Beshears broke a 51-yard kickoff return to the 47. Then, facing a fourth-and-two from the 7 at the 1:19 mark, James Sims plowed to the 5 for a first-and-goal.
Two running plays lost yardage, setting up the last-second drama that resulted in Kansas’ first two-game winning streak under second-year head coach Turner Gill. The touchdown on the goal line was so close, it was reviewed as the crestfallen Huskies, who won 11 games last season and are bidding to become the next mid-major upstart, looked on hopefully.
Everyone expected an offensive shootout from two teams that combined for more than 950 total yards in winning their openers the week before, and everyone was right. It was tied 35-35 tie at the end of the third quarter. Kansas (2-0) totaled 534 yards and Northern Illinois had 462.
Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois’ senior quarterback closing in on a raft of team records, was 27 for 33 for 315 6yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 89 yards and three TDs.
The Jayhawks also had touchdown runs of 72 yards by Tony Pierson and 31 by James Sims called back by holding penalties. Sims wound up with 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns while Jordan Webb was 21 for 30 for 281 yards and three touchdowns.
After Harnish hit Da’Ron Brown with a 6-yard TD pass to tie it 35-all near the end of the third quarter, the Jayhawks swept right back down the field but were stopped on third-and-goal from the 5 and Alex Mueller kicked a 27-yard field goal for a 38-35 lead.
The first half ended with a wild flourish and Kansas locked in a 21-21 tie. With less than two minutes to play and Northern Illinois facing a fourth-and-six from the 30, Harnish lifted a perfectly thrown pass to Martel Moore, who appeared to come down with the ball just one yard short of the goal line.
The Huskies hurriedly lined up to run a play and seize a 28-14 lead. But a review resulted in a reversal, so the Jayhawks took over on their 30 at the 1:46 mark.
On third-and-eight, Webb hit Sims out of the backfield, he got a couple of good blocks and went 39 yards to the 29. A moment later, Webb was sacked, putting Kansas beyond field-goal range.
But with 17 seconds left, on third-and-17, the Huskies blew coverage and left Kale Pick completely alone down field. He hauled in Webb’s 36-yard touchdown pass, making it 21-21.
Each team scored two touchdowns in a third quarter that was almost devoid of defense. Harnish tallied on a 26-yard run and connected with Brown on a 10-yard TD pass. Kansas got two TD runs from Sims of 8 and 1 yard. Webb started sharp, hitting Beshears with a TD pass on third-and-goal from the 15. Harnish found Brown for 18 yards on fourth-and-three from the 28 on the Huskies’ next possession and Harnish ran it in from the 7.
After Sims’ TD run was wiped out by a penalty, Northern Illinois took over on its own 32 and Harnish was 3 for 3 for 53 yards in a five-play, 68-yard drive he capped with a 12-yard scoring run.
Northern Illinois tackle Ron Newcomb fell on a Kansas fumble after Webb and Sims bobbled a handoff and Harnish needed nine plays to move 53 yards for a 21-7 lead. On third-and-goal from the 8, the senior quarterback fired into the end zone for Martel Moore and a 21-7 lead.
JaCory Shepherd’s 20-yard reception on third-and-10 a few minutes later kept Kansas’ drive alive and Darrian Miller, one of several fleet freshmen who have enlivened what used to be a ponderous offense, made it 21-14 with an 18-yard dash around right end.
KANSAS 45, N. ILLINOIS 42
N. Illinois 7 14 14 7 — 42
Kansas 7 14 14 10 — 45
Kan—Beshears 15 pass from Webb (Mueller kick), 7:51.
NIU—Harnish 7 run (Sims kick), 2:50.
NIU—Harnish 12 run (Sims kick), 13:43.
NIU—M.Moore 8 pass from Harnish (Sims kick), 8:39.
Kan—Miller 18 run (Mueller kick), 4:16.
Kan—Pick 36 pass from Webb (Mueller kick), :17.
NIU—Harnish 26 run (Sims kick), 12:59.
Kan—Sims 8 run (Mueller kick), 10:32.
Kan—Sims 1 run (Mueller kick), 2:55.
NIU—D.Brown 10 pass from Harnish (Sims kick), 1:17.
Kan—FG Mueller 27, 8:50.
NIU—Hopkins 1 run (Sims kick), 5:03.
Kan—Beshears 6 pass from Webb (Mueller kick), :09.
First downs 27 32
Rushes-yards 29-147 60-253
Passing 315 281
Comp-Att-Int 27-33-0 21-30-0
Return Yards 7 0
Punts-Avg. 2-32.0 1-56.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 3-35 9-75
Time of Possession 23:11 36:49
RUSHING—N. Illinois, Harnish 11-89, Hopkins 13-47, Womble 4-11, Team 1-0. Kansas, Sims 26-110, Miller 10-57, Pierson 4-37, Bourbon 7-37, Beshears 1-18, Lewis 1-6, Webb 11-(minus 12).
PASSING—N. Illinois, Harnish 27-33-0-315. Kansas, Webb 21-30-0-281.
RECEIVING—N. Illinois, Palmer 9-86, Ashford 5-67, M.Moore 4-45, Daniels 3-40, W.Clark 2-35, D.Brown 2-28, Johnson 1-12, J.Wells 1-2. Kansas, Beshears 7-70, Biere 4-49, Pick 3-55, Sims 2-49, Shepherd 2-29, Lewis 1-16, Miller 1-7, Omigie 1-6.