Mountaineers’ Attack Too Much, Jayhawks Fall, 33-14
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – With the lack of a rhythm on offense, Kansas senior punter Trevor Pardula found himself in a familiar spot Saturday evening at Milan Puskar Stadium as the Jayhawks dropped their first conference road game of the 2014 season to West Virginia, 33-14.
The punter booted a career-high 14 punts, six of 50 yards or more, pinning WVU down inside the 20-yard line three times. His 14 boots broke the Milan Puskar Stadium record for most punts in a game by an individual opponent and ranks second all-time in the Kansas history books.
However, for the second straight week, the Kansas (2-3, 0-2 Big 12) offense lacked a significant presence gaining just 176 yards of total offense. Freshman running back Corey Avery ran for 58 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart completed eight passes for 65 yards.
The highlight for KU came on special teams when the squad chalked up its first touchdown of the season late in the fourth quarter. Senior wide receiver Nick Harwell returned a punt 76 yards for a score, his first as a Jayhawk, and first for a Kansas player since Daymond Patterson returned a punt 75 yards for a TD against Florida International in 2008.
West Viginia (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) gained 557 yards from scrimmage with three touchdowns. Quarterback Clint Trickett paced the attack completing 20 passes for 302 yards and a touchdown. Kevin White was on the receiving end of that touchdown and finished the game with six snags for 132 yards. Running back Rushel Shell led the push on the ground with 113 yards and a touchdown.
Against a potent offensive aerial assault, Kansas’ secondary got plenty of action on the day. Junior safety Isaiah Johnson led the team with nine tackles. When the Mountaineers looked to score again, Johnson picked a pass off at the goal line and returned it 29 yards to the KU 30-yard line. On the edge, senior cornerback JaCorey Shepherd tallied four stops and tied a career-high with three pass breakups.
West Virginia controlled the pace of the first half, tallying 26 points thanks to 343 yards of total offense. The quick, athletic Mountaineer attack held true to its form, scoring 16-unanswered points to open the first quarter. Kicker Josh Lambert drained three-straight field goals (42, 25 and 43), before quarterback Clint Trickett connected with wide receiver Kevin White for 63 yards and the game’s first touchdown with 36 seconds left in the first period.
The second quarter sang much of the same tune, with Shell taking a carry into the end zone with 4:09 to play in the half, increasing WVU’s lead, 23-0. Lambert added three more points with a field goal of 53 yards to close out the half and leave Kansas with a 26-point deficit.
Offensively, the Jayhawks mustered only 84 yards of offense, failing to cross the 50-yard line in seven first-half possessions. Junior wide receiver Nigel King had the half’s longest play, hauling in a 30-yard strike from Cozart. But the inconsistency and inability to sustain drives along with multiple penalties on offense stifled any chance for Kansas to tack on points in the first half.
Kansas toughened up its defensive presence in the second half forcing West Virginia to give the ball up on three-straight possessions to open the third quarter.
With West Virginia driving, Johnson recorded his first interception of the season returning it 29 yards to the Kansas 30-yard line. The Jayhawks held WVU to its first three-and-out of the game on its next possession before capitalizing on a muffed punt to regain possession for the first time inside West Virginia territory.
After recovering the ball at the 18-yard line, the Jayhawks handed the ball to Avery who powered his way into the end zone from four yards out capping off a five-play drive and giving KU its first points since Sept. 20 against Central Michigan. The celebration was short lived, however, because on the ensuing kick off West Virginia’s Mario Alford took the ball 94 yards for a touchdown that sealed the game.
Late in the fourth quarter the Kansas defense had secured another stop and forced West Virginia to punt. Harwell caught the ball at the KU 24-yard line and ran untouched down the sideline for a 76-yard touchdown return. Harwell’s return was too little too late for Kansas as the seven second-half points scored by WVU were too much to overcome and the Jayhawks fell by a final score of 33-14.
Kansas returns home to Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 11, as the Jayhawks play host to Oklahoma State. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m., with a live broadcast on FOX Sports 1.
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