Bean, Kansas overcomes flags to beat UNLV in wild Guaranteed Rate Bowl
PHOENIX (AP) — Kansas was one of Power Five football's worst teams not that long ago, going through two full seasons with one combined win.
The Jayhawks began rebuilding in coach Lance Leipold's first season, went to a bowl game a year ago and now have a large trophy to take back home with them to Lawrence.
Jason Bean threw for 449 yards and all six of his touchdown passes to two receivers, and penalty-plagued Kansas outlasted UNLV 49-36 in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on Tuesday night.
“I said it one time and I kind of chuckle, that we can be in the conversation for a conference championship," Leipold said. “I never would have thought I would have said that that quick at Kansas.”
The Jayhawks (9-4) tried to make things hard on themselves Tuesday.
Ranked 14th nationally for fewest penalties with 55 during the regular season, Kansas was flagged 18 times for 210 yards, including four personal fouls.
The Jayhawks made up for it with an explosive offense that produced 591 total yards at Chase Field, home of baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks.
Luke Grimm had four catches for 160 yards and three touchdowns. Lawrence Arnold added six catches for 132 yards and three more scores, giving Kansas two receivers with three touchdowns in a game for the first time in program history.
Bean finished 19 of 28 and overcame two interceptions in the third quarter to lead Kansas to its first postseason win since the 2008 Insight Bowl, also in Phoenix.
“That's an example of this whole season,” said Bean, who took over as Kansas' starter when Jalon Daniels went out with a back injury three games into the season. “We've had our ups and downs and that's just a credit to our attitude to stay kind of even keel.”
Jayden Maiava threw two touchdown passes in the third quarter to rally UNLV (9-5) nearly all the way back from a 21-point deficit early in the second. He added a 50-yard touchdown pass to Senika McKie and finished 24 of 35 for 291 yards with two interceptions.
The Rebels just couldn't stop Kansas and came up short in their first bowl game since 2014.
A tough ending to coach Barry Odom's first season, but UNLV finished with its most wins since the Randall Cunningham team went 11-2 in 1984.
“I thought the progress that the program made was substantial from where we started back when we got the job and started working together,” Odom said.
UNLV got off to a fast start, moving quickly down the field for Maiava’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Davis.
Bean took over from there, hitting Grimm on touchdowns of 6 and 60 yards, and a 15-yarder to Arnold. Devin Neal's 1-yard run put Kansas up 28-10 at halftime.
Maiava rallied UNLV to 28-24 with a pair of TD passes, but Kansas kept scoring.
Bean hit Arnold on touchdown passes of 40 and 56 yards, then put the Jayhawks up 49-30 with a 43-yard TD to Grimm.
“We tried a little bit of everything,” Odom said. “Any good defense, the number of explosive plays, the lower the number is the better you're going to be as a defense. It sounds easy, but it's hard to do.”
Kansas: The Jayhawks picked a bad time to become undisciplined, but got away with it because of their explosive offense.
UNLV: The Rebels managed to climb most of the way out of the big early hole, but never could catch the Jayhawks and remained winless in bowl games since 2000.
UNLV: Odom has some success to build on for his second season and should have plenty of key players back, including Maiava. The Rebels had the nation's 71st-ranked recruiting class in the early signing period, according to the 247 Sports composite.
Kansas: Neal announced before the game that he will return for another season, and the Jayhawks' defensive front is loaded with underclassmen on the two-deep roster. Kansas had the No. 44 recruiting class in the early signing period.