By Kyle Krajewski
In their first playoff game since 2011, the 20th ranked Golden Bears couldn’t slow down 23rd ranked Hillsdale College in the second half of a 40-26 loss.
KU showed no lack of confidence in their play during the first half. Hillsdale’s opening drive ended with an interception from senior Jake Perry to give KU the ball and to start the game offensively.
Junior quarterback Collin DiGalbo drove the offense down the field throwing a perfect 5/5 on pass attempts, completing the drive with a seven-yard strike to junior tight end Jack Pilkerton for the touchdown.
KU’s defense forced a punt on the next drive and then the offense drove down the field again in a season-long 17-play, 86-yard scoring drive. Senior running back Craig Reynolds received the snap to run the ball in himself for the touchdown.
After allowing a field goal to Hillsdale and two drives later, KU found themselves in the end zone for the third time in the first half. At their own 45-yard line, DiGalbo saw an opening in the field and decided to keep the ball himself, which resulted in a 55-yard touchdown scramble from the quarterback.
Finishing the first half feeling confident and up 20-6, KU just had to maintain the lead throughout the second half. KU had held Hillsdale to just 99 on 32 plays-yards on offense in the first half as compared to their own 322 yards on 39 plays. The defense was playing at their best until the second half began.
Hillsdale came out of halftime ready to play and made the right adjustments they needed to. Scoring 21 points in the third quarter, Hillsdale found themselves with their first lead of the game at 27-20 to start the fourth.
After allowing 24 unanswered points to be scored, KU got back on the board halfway through the fourth on a 19-yard DiGalbo pass to junior Diego Torres and closed in on Hillsdale’s lead to make the score 27-26. That would be the last time the Golden Bears would add points to the scoreboard.
Hillsdale wrapped the game up with two final touchdowns to seal their victory and end the game with a score of 40-26.
DiGalbo completed 34 of his 49 pass attempts for 378 yards and two touchdowns, moving himself up to fourth all-time with 496 career completions. DiGalbo also ends the season as the all-time leader in rush yards and touchdowns by a quarterback, adding to those records this game with 89 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Reynolds also adds to his career records for the program with 59 yards and a touchdown on the ground as well as 75 yards receiving. He finds himself third all-time with 2,650 career rushing yards as well as second with 5,277 career all-purpose yards. Reynolds is also the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 35.
Pilkerton proved to be Mr. Reliable for DiGalbo on the receiving end all throughout the game, finishing as the leading receiver on the team with seven catches for 87 yards and a score. Senior receivers Conor Sullivan and Ryan Hubley followed behind with 57 and 52 yards receiving respectively.
Sophomore Chris Thomas led the defense with 12 total tackles and one tackle-for-loss. Sophomore Shawn Turber-Ortiz followed behind with 11 tackles while senior Tajier Jefferson recorded nine. Jefferson moved to eighth all-time in program history with 293 career tackles. Junior Ahkee Cox-Cowan broke up two passes this game but tied himself for the school-record for a career.
The Golden Bears wrapped up their season with its most wins in seven seasons and qualified for their third NCAA Tournament.