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Kansas ends bowl drought vs. Arkansas in Liberty Bowl

Nov 25, 2022; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) throws a pass against the Missouri Tigers during the game at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It’s often the case for bowl games. One team is excited to be there while the other accepted the bid reluctantly. That’s certainly the case for the Liberty Bowl on Wednesday in Memphis, Tenn.

Kansas (6-6) reached a bowl game for the first time since 2008. The Jayhawks ended the season by losing six of their last seven games, but a bowl is more than just about anybody affiliated with the program expected in September.

Arkansas (6-6) meanwhile will play in the Liberty Bowl for the sixth time after finishing fifth in the SEC West. The Razorbacks had much higher expectations after entering the season ranked No. 19 in the Associated Press Top 25.

Arkansas coach Sam Pittman has been trying to put on a happy face regarding the game.

“We’re extremely excited to be headed to Memphis to play a really good Kansas team in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl,” Pittman said after the bowl announcement. “Coach (Lance) Leipold and his staff have done a tremendous job with their team, and we look forward to the challenge. For us, the opportunity to play a bowl game in what we consider our backyard is going to be special. We can’t wait to see our fans in Memphis.”

Arkansas uses a balanced attack on offense. The Hogs average 230.3 yards per game through the air, and slightly less (223.4) on the ground. Raheim Sanders leads the Razorbacks with 1,426 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. KJ Jefferson threw for 2,361 yards with 22 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

The Jayhawks were picked to finish last in the Big 12 but were one of two undefeated teams left in the conference when they lost to TCU on Oct. 8. Quarterback Jalon Daniels got early Heisman Trophy attention, but he injured his shoulder against the Horned Frogs and missed the next five games. He came back for the final two games.

Leipold has plenty of reason to celebrate the bowl selection. The Jayhawks won a total of four conference games over the previous seven seasons and went 2-10 overall in 2021.

“If you really held it up to me, I would say I didn’t know if we could make the jump from two wins to six maybe immediately,” he said after the selection. “But I’d never bet against this group and the coaches that work with them daily.”

–Field Level Media