Kansas QB sets record in Guaranteed Rate Bowl victory over UNLV

Dec 27, 2023, 1:10 AM | Updated: 1:45 am

Jason Bean...

Jason Bean won the Offensive MVP in the 34th Guaranteed Rate Bowl. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jason Bean threw six touchdowns, setting a program record for touchdown passes in a bowl game as Kansas beat the UNLV Rebels in the 37th Guaranteed Rate Bowl at Chase Field on Tuesday.

In a game featuring two programs on the rise, the Jayhawks proved that their talent — especially at receiver — was too much for the Rebels to keep up with, winning 49-36.

It’s the sixth time that Kansas football has finished with a nine-win season and the first since 2007. It’s also their first bowl win since 2008.

The game started with a UNLV touchdown and a Kansas three-and-out, but the rest of the first half took an opposite turn. Kansas scored 28 unanswered before UNLV could muster up a field goal to end the half.

Luke Grimm hauled in two of the Jayhawks’ first scores, one from six yards out and the second from 60 as his defender blitzed from the corner and no one replaced him.

Lawrence Arnold caught the next touchdown from 15 yards out, and the two receivers each finished with three scores on the day, tying the most by any Kansas receiver in a bowl game.

Arnold spoke after the game about the competition between he and Grimm on the sideline after touchdowns, urging the other to keep up.

“It’s a friendly competition but it’s just to make each other better and keep us pushing,” Arnold said.

“Whether it’s practice, a game, trying to make the best catches we can …” Grimm added, “at the end of the day, we’re scoring touchdowns for KU.”

Grimm’s 160 yards on four catches dwarfed Arnold’s 132 yards on six catches, for those keeping track in the friendly competition.

During UNLV’s scoring drought, quarterback Jayden Maiava threw two interceptions, and kicker Jose Pizano missed a 52-yard field goal attempt. Pizano hit from 40 yards out to end the half, keeping UNLV alive at 28-10 going into the break.

But the Rebels came out with a different level of energy in the third quarter that was clear to see, and it showed up on the field.

“I think we knew that we didn’t play anywhere close to the way that we prepared in the first half,” UNLV head coach Barry Odom said. “Don’t look at it as 30 minutes left, let’s look at it as one play at a time.”

One play at a time, Bean threw two interceptions in the first five minutes of the third quarter — both to defensive back Cameron Oliver — and UNLV scored two touchdowns in the same time frame, cutting the deficit to 28-24 in a hurry.

Kansas responded by scoring touchdowns on three straight drives, all going to Grimm and Arnold, keeping the game in hand for the Jayhawks. All three touchdowns were big plays, coming from at least 40 yards out.

Odom called the big plays “an Achilles heel for us all year and it was again tonight.”

With 449 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions on 19-of-28 passing, Bean was awarded the game’s Offensive MVP.

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold had to take a second when asked about Bean’s legacy as a quarterback filling in for injured starter Jalon Daniels, who hasn’t played since September.

“For him to have this opportunity in this bowl game to be up on that stage and be one of the players of the game …” Leipold said, “His legacy is going to be not only as a player but what a great teammate he was as well.”

The Jayhawks — who won despite 216 penalty yards, an all-time record by any team in any bowl game — will be back in the Valley next season as the Arizona State Sun Devils host Kansas as part of their inaugural Big 12 season.

The Rebels will get their own share of Pac-12 fragments in their future as Oregon State and Washington State are set to play Mountain West schedules next season.

In the loss, UNLV was led by Maiava’s 291 passing yards on 24-of-35 passing with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Jacob De Jesus totaled 135 yards and a touchdown off of 14 touches while Ricky White added 97 receiving yards and a touchdown.

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