Jace Gilbert missed three field goals, including a 37-yarder with a chance to tie the game with under 30 seconds to play as Kansas held off Iowa State 14-11 on Saturday to remain undefeated.
At 5-0 overall, this is the Jayhawks' best start to the season since 2009 and just the second time in the last 14 years they're 2-0 to begin Big 12 Conference play.
"This feels different because of what this group has been though," Kansas coach Lance Leipold said. "We've only been here 16 months and focusing on how we can improve, but I'm so happy for them because we can see what it does in the community, the stands, togetherness and these are great things to build upon."
Jalon Daniels and Daniel Hishaw both scored rushing touchdowns for the Jayhawks, who were shut out in the second half, but did just enough to hang on for the victory.
"Before the season I said adversity is going to come at some point," Daniels said. "We had some adversity today as an offense, but seeing the defense being able to come through when needed, we really love that."
Daniels threw for 93 yards while Iowa State's Hunter Dekkers had 278 passing yards but threw a costly interception in the second quarter.
"They did a good job mixing things up with their different blitzes and we have a lot of things to clean up on the offensive end," Dekkers said. "If we do that, we'll be just fine. I was alright today, but I got some things I need to do better."
Dekkers' interception in the second quarter ended up turning into a touchdown for the Jayhawks, a 2-yard run by Daniels for a 14-0 lead.
"I think the quarterback has to have great precision to detail," Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. "We'll have to look at the video tape and see what that looked like and he can continue to go forward. He had some positive moments and some moments he wants back."
Iowa State got on the board just before halftime with Dekkers' 7-yard pass to Easton Dean. A two-point conversion after a botched PAT snap drew the Cyclones within 14-8.
Gilbert came into the game 5-for-5 on field goals for the Cyclones but missed two kicks off the post — one in the first quarter and another in the fourth — which proved costly.
The Cyclones didn't do hardly anything on the ground after Jirehl Brock left the game with an injury. The leading rusher for the Cyclones had just eight of Iowa State's 26 total yards on the ground.
"We won't know until early in the week," Campbell said. "I don't think it's going to be lengthy more week-to-week."
Kansas didn't score in the second half, but big defensive stops lead the Jayhawks to another victory for this upstart team.
"Based on what everyone thinks where this program was going to be, yeah, but we've got to finish this story and we have seven games to go," Leipold said about the start of the season. "I said we weren't going to measure the improvement with the scoreboard last year and the improvement has helped the buy in and you start trying to find ways to win these close games."
Iowa State: The Cyclones looked a bit out of sorts all day and probably could've won this game against lesser Kansas teams. It's the first time the Cyclones have lost to Kansas since 2014.
Kansas: They did just enough to win this game and showed they can win a defensive battle after shootouts in their first four games of the season.
Kansas faces TCU at home on Saturday. Iowa State hosts Kansas State the same day.