Second-Half Surge Lifts Jayhawks Over Central Michigan, 24-10
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas surged past Central Michigan with fourteen unanswered points in the fourth quarter, both on touchdown throws from Montell Cozart, en route to a 24-10 final score at Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon. Cozart threw for a career-best 226 yards and completed 23-of-33 passes.
The Jayhawks (2-1) combined for 371 yards of offense and three touchdowns against the Chippewas (2-2), with senior wide receiver Tony Pierson paving the way with 89 total yards (77 rushing and 12 receiving). Senior tight end Jimmay Mundine finished the day with a career-high in receptions and receiving yards, chalking up six and 67, respectively.
The physicality of the game lived up to all the hype it presented during the week and the KU defense kept to its end of the bargain, forcing three turnovers, including two fumbles. Junior safety Isaiah Johnson led the way with eight solo stops, while senior linebacker Ben Heeney added seven tackles of his own, two for a loss, and jarred the ball loose for a turnover in the second half.
Kansas wasted no time scoring the game’s first points after Pierson opened the first offensive series with a career-long 74-yard touchdown run 18 seconds into the first quarter. Pierson’s run was the first time the Jayhawks have scored on the first offensive play of a game since Dezmon Briscoe’s 60-yard touchdown reception from Todd Reesing against Minnesota in 2008.
The defense kept momentum on its side when senior BUCK Michael Reynolds hit Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush for his first sack of the season, also forcing Rush to fumble on his own 19-yard line into the hands of junior defensive lineman Ben Goodman. After the turnover, the Jayhawks were unable to add to their lead when Cozart made the first of just a few mistakes and an errant pass attempt found the hands of CMU defensive end Mitch Stanitzek for his third interception on the season.
Kansas head coach Charlie Weis
celebrates with freshman running back
Corey Avery.The Kansas defense held the run-happy CMU offense to just 61 yards on the ground in the first half. After three ineffective series with the ball, Central Michigan managed to string together a long drive mid-way through the second quarter, resulting in a 37-yard field goal from the leg of kicker Brian Eavey to cut into KU’s lead, 7-3.
Following a 27-minute weather delay to delay the start of the second half, the KU defense picked up right where it left off when Heeney forced the second fumble of his career, and the second on the day, to set up a quick scoring drive for the Jayhawks.
Cozart found Mundine for his career-high fifth reception of the day for 18 yards on a tight end pop pass, setting up a 27-yard field goal from the boot of sophomore kicker Matthew Wyman to increase the KU lead with 9:52 left in the third quarter, 10-3.
Central Michigan answered back with a 75-yard drive of its own with running back Martez Walker doing most of the damage on the ground. Walker tallied 46 yards rushing in the series, including his 18-yard touchdown run to knot the score up, 10-10, with 6:11 left in third quarter.
Kansas had another prime opportunity to tack some more points, but Wyman’s 35-yard field goal attempt missed wide right, giving Central Michigan the ball back at its own 20-yard line. A fired up Jayhawk defense took the field and forced a crucial three-and-out, thanks to a big pass breakup by senior cornerback JaCorey Shepherd.
KU got the ball back at its own 28-yard line by way of a CMU punt, setting the table for a fourth-quarter score. On second down, Cozart connected with senior wide receiver Justin McCay for a 60-yard touchdown reception, the longest catch of his career, to regain the lead for Kansas, 17-10, with 13:23 left in the game.
The Jayhawks added seven more points when freshman running back Corey Avery found the endzone for the first time in his career off a 30-yard pass from Cozart with 1:58 to play to put the game out of reach, 24-10. Shepherd then sealed the Chippewas’ fate with an interception to keep Central Michigan from scoring and lock up the game in favor of KU.
Kansas continues its homestand when it opens Big 12 Conference play Saturday, September 27, against Texas at Memorial Stadium. The game will also serve as KU’s annual homecoming game and can be seen on FOX Sports 1. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m.
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