Streak Snapped! Jayhawks Top West Virginia, 31-19

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Records, streaks and goalposts fell as Kansas snapped a 27-game, Big 12 Conference winless streak with a 31-19 win over West Virginia at Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon.

James Sims tallied 211 total rushing yards, the 15th-best single-game effort in Kansas history and most in one contest since 2001, to help guide the Jayhawks (3-7,1-6 Big 12) to their first win in league play since beating Colorado during the 2010 season. Sims moved into sole possession of second place for the most career 100-plus rushing games (14) in Kansas history, but it was his three rushing touchdowns that provided the biggest impact in the win over the Mountaineers (4-7, 2-6 Big 12).  

Kansas’ offense topped its season-high rushing yardage with 376 total yards as freshman quarterback Montell Cozart upped his career-high rushing yards to 60. West Virginia tallied 386 yards of offense, 242 of which came through the air.

On the defensive side, the Jayhawks recorded 64 total tackles led by safety Cassius Sendish, who tied his career- high in total tackles (11). Linebacker Ben Heeney picked up his third interception of the season and third of his career. In addition, the Kansas defense tallied two sacks and five TFLs. Defensive lineman Keba Agostinho also blocked a field goal in the second quarter, to close the half with a two-score lead. That block was the first since 2008 when Phillip Strozier blocked one against Missouri.

On the opposite side of the scrimmage, WVU quarterback Paul Millard led the game with 242 passing yards. The WVU offense went 3-3 in the red zone, with running back Charles Sims leading the Mountaineers in rushing with 99 total yards.  Defensive lineman Will Clarke tallied 10 tackles, two TFLs and a quarterback hurry. 

West Virginia struck first in the game, spurred by a 27-yard rush from WVU’s Sims on the opening play. It only took the Mountaineers six plays and 2:52 minutes for WVU quarterback Paul Millard to hand-off the ball to Sims for a 12-yard touchdown in the Jayhawk end zone. Josh Lambert connected for the additional point, marking the first time this season the Kansas defense has allowed a touchdown on the first drive.

On the next drive, KU’s Sims rushed for 31 total yards, over six attempts, setting up kicker Ron Doherty within field goal range. Doherty connected the 25-yard field goal ending the 64-yard play over 4:47 minutes – the most number of plays on a scoring drive this season.

With nearly seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, KU’s Sims broke free for a 62-yard rush. The rush placed Kansas on WVU’s 10 and two plays later, Sims punched in a three-yard rush into the end zone. Doherty’s extra point sealed Kansas’ drive that lasted 5 plays, 1:35 minutes.

With under a minute remaining in the second quarter, KU’s Sims galloped for 68-yard touchdown that marked his career-long rush since he rushed 64-yards at Texas in 2012. The rush brought Sims to 167 yards at the half, marking his second 100-plus rushing game of the season and 14th of his career.

Before the end of the second quarter, WVU’s last 23 second drive brought them to Kansas’ 42 yard line. Lambert attempted the field goal but was blocked by Agostinho, the first blocked field goal since Kansas vs. Missouri in 2008.

At the half, the Jayhawks led the Mountaineers, 17-7, the first time Kansas has led an opponent in the first half since the season-opener against South Dakota. Kansas tallied 222 rushing yards total against West Virginia’s 69 yards.

After being forced three-and-out by West Virginia’s defense to start the second half, Goodman intercepted the ball from Millard on the Mountaineer’s drive at KU’s 32, scurrying 54-yards to West Virginia’s 14. The ensuing five-play drive ended with a rush-touchdown from Sims two yards out. Sims’ seven yards on the drive pushed him past his career-high rushing total of 176 vs. Texas in 2012.

With 6:27 left in the fourth quarter, Heeney picked up his third interception of the season, rushing 28 yards before being pulled down at the West Virginia one. Bourbon took the hand-off on the ensuing play, rushing a yard for his first touchdown of the game.

In response, the Mountaineers capitalized on the next drive, covering 75 total yards in five plays. Millard’s pass connected to Kevin White for a 3-yard touchdown. Millard and the Mountaineers then attempted a 2-point conversion, but Millards pass to Vernon Davis was incomplete.

On the following drive, a Kansas fumble was picked up by linebacker Nick Kwiatowski, giving the Mountaineers another touchdown opportunity. After a drive that lasted 1:31 minutes, Charles Sims punched in the last WVU touchdown from six yards out, making the final score 31-19.

Next, Kansas will travel to Ames, Iowa, for a 7 p.m. game against Big 12 rival Iowa State. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.  The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.

Game Notes
*Kansas logged its first win against West Virginia cutting the Mountaineer’s series lead in half at 2-1 after three meetings. It is the first time the two programs have met in Lawrence. Head coach Charlie Weis improved to 1-1 against WVU.

KANSAS CAPTAINS: Jake Heaps (QB), Keon Stowers (DE), Ben Heeney (LB), James Sims (RB)

FIRST TIME STARTERS AT KU: Offense –  Montell Cozart (QB)

*Kansas won the toss and deferred until the second half. West Virginia got the ball in the north end zone.
*The Jayhawks, 31-19, win over West Virginia marks the first Big 12 win for KU since the 2010 season, when Kansas defeated Colorado, 52-45. The win ended a 27-game Big 12 losing streak.
*West Virginia scored on its opening drive of the game and it was the first time this season that an opponent has scored on KU during the opening drive. The Jayhawks have limited opponents to just eight first downs on opening drives, two of which came from the Mountaineers on Saturday.
*The Jayhawks headed into the locker room at half time with the lead, 17-7. It was the first time the Jayhawks have led at halftime since 2012 against Texas, when KU led 14-7.
*Kansas recorded two sacks against the Mountaineers, which was the most sacks by the Jayhawks since the TCU game.
*KU’s offense ran for 315 yards, the most rushing yards by the Jayhawks since running for 390 yards against Texas Tech last season.

*Senior K Ron Doherty’s 25-yard field goal in the first quarter marked just the third time this season that the Jayhawks have scored on their opening drive and cut the WVU lead to 7-3. Doherty has made five-of-six field goal attempts this year, all in the last three games. 
*Senior RB James Sims rushed for three touchdowns, his first scores since the Oklahoma game on Oct. 19.  The last time a Jayhawk ran in three touchdowns in a single game was Sims in 2010 against Colorado. He has 34 career rushing touchdowns and is seven away from tying the Kansas all-time record of 41 rushing touchdowns set by June Henley from 1993-96.
*Sims set a new career-best with 211 rushing yards against West Virginia. His previous career-high was 176 yards against Texas in 2012. He became the first Jayhawk to run for 200 or more yards in a game since Tony Pierson at Texas Tech last season, and logged the most rushing yards by a Kansas player since Reggie Duncan ran for 227 yards against Texas Tech during the 2001 season. The 211 yards was the 15th-best rushing effort in Kansas history.
*Sims ran for the longest rush of the season by Jayhawk twice in the second quarter. His first was a 62-yard run and the second was a 68-yard rush for a touchdown, both of which topped Tony Pierson’s 50-yard rush against Oklahoma State earlier this season. Sim’s 68-yard rush was the longest of his career, surpassing his previous career long of 64 yards against Texas in 2012.
*Kansas true freshman QB Montell Cozart won in his first Kansas start, becoming the eighth Jayhawk QB to lead his team to victory in 17 total debuts since 2000. Previous Jayhawk quarterbacks to win their debut in the last 12 years include Jake Heaps (2013), Dayne Crist (2012), Jordan Webb (2011), Todd Reesing (2007), Kerry Meier (2006), Brian Luke (2004) and Zach Dyer (2001).
*Cozart ran for a career-high 60 yards, which is the most by a Kansas quarterback in a single a single game since Jordan Webb ran for 75 yards vs. Texas A&M in 2010. Cozart finished the game 5-for-12 for 61 yards through the air in his first start.
*Junior Brandon Bourbon ran the ball in for KU’s fourth rushing touchdown of the game. His one-yard rush for a touchdown gave Kansas a 31-7 lead with 6:24 left to play. He has three rushing touchdowns on the season and four in his career.

*Senior DL Kevin Young recorded the first sack of the game for the Jayhawks in the second quarter. The tackle was for a loss of seven yards and forced West Virginia to punt the ball away giving Kansas the ball back with 7:47 left until halftime. It was the second solo sack of the season for Young, who now has 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for a loss of 29 yards on the year.
*Sophomore Ben Goodman picked up his first career interception on the Mountaineers first drive of the second half. Goodman returned the interception for 54 yards giving Kansas the ball on WVU’s 14 yardline. Goodman also recorded a career-best six tackles against West Virginia, his previous career-high was five tackles against Texas Tech earlier this year.
*Junior Ben Heeney recorded the third interception of his career and of the season. He returned it for 29 yards to give the Kansas the ball on WVU’s one yardline.
*After the Mountaineers scored on their opening drive, Kansas’ defense kept West Virginia out of the end zone for 47:02. WVU didn’t score again until there was less than five minutes left in the game.

*Senior Keba Agostinho ended the half by blocking a Mountaineer field goal attempt, it is the first blocked field goal of this career. It was also the first blocked field goal by a Jayhawk since the 2008 season, when Phillip Strozier blocked a field goal against Missouri. Kansas has blocked three kicks as a team this season. 

Kansas Head Coach Charlie Weis
On what the win means to the team:
“Let’s start with the kids that have been here for five years and gone through multiple coaches. Those are the guys I feel the best for. I also feel good for all of our students and fans who have endured those years. Finally, I’m obviously happy for the team because they were struggling. The big question was, were they going to throw in the towel? They were resilient and didn’t give up. This week it paid off.

On James Sims:
“We knew we were going to run the ball a bunch. We knew it was going to be windy and that was going to affect the passing game for both teams. We knew in order to win we were going have to run it and spread out. We kept giving the ball to James and he kept giving us yards. Everyone helped out. When it was all said and done, our plan was very effective.

On defensive efforts:
“They played very well, except for the first quick drive we gave up and then the one 40-yard pass. Other than those two instances, our defensive efforts pretty much controlled the game.

On Montell Cozart:
“I think that Montell has been aggressive each week. He gave us a lot with his efforts today. He got us some big first downs. He has a lot of work to do, but that was a good effort for him this early in his career.”

On the rest of the season:
“It was a big concern for me that if we lost this game today, it would be a large struggle going through the rest of the season. We needed some momentum and we got that today.”

Ben Goodman, Jr., Buck
On his interception:
“It was amazing! I was reading the quarterback and I put my hands up and I looked down and all of a sudden I had the ball. I was running, trying to run as fast as I could, which I guess wasn’t very fast, because the quarterback caught me. I was so tired and I just stepped out of bounds. I was just trying to secure the ball.”

On what he thought when the fans ran out:
“It was amazing. I’ve never been in an atmosphere like that. I’ve always wanted to be. It was amazing, such a great feeling. I know that we have some great fans and we appreciate their support, I’m glad they’re here.”

Cassius Sendish, Jr., Safety
On what he saw from the West Virginia offense:
“We really had an in-depth film analysis this whole week and we pretty much knew the game plan that they were going to come in with. We knew that they would make adjustments on the fly just like every team does, but we had great preparation and we came out to be successful.”

On if he sensed anything different before the game:
“This whole week we put an emphasis on really putting it all out there. You know when you come home at the end of the day and you look at yourself in the mirror, can you really tell yourself that you laid it all out there? Do you have anything left, or did you leave it all on the field? That’s something we went through the whole week and today, and you could tell we had times where we stopped big plays, but we also gave up big plays. But we bounced back.”

JaCorey Shepherd, Jr., Cornerback
On if he expected the crowd to storm the field:
“No, I think they caught us all by surprise. Then we just kind of turned our heads and everyone was running out there. Honestly, I didn’t even know what to do. We were wondering if we should stay there, or keep shaking hands, or what. It was a lot of fun. I hope we get to experience that again.”

On what went down on the sidelines after they gave up the first touchdown:
“We all kind of knew what to do. We just had to go back out and re-group. We went back to the drawing board and made the changes that needed to be made. Then we just had to go back out with the same intensity.”

Montell Cozart, Fr., Quarterback
On his performance against West Virginia:
“I would give myself a B, B-, right in the B range. There were some things I could have done better. There’s always room for improvement, being able to lead the team as a freshman and being a quarterback, that’s our job as a quarterback. So I would grade myself around a B range.”

On his evaluation of the offense:
“The offense that we put in was kind of similar to what Baylor does. They have one play and they have three different options on one play; you read one guy and see what he does. For example, when I kept handing the ball off to James [Sims] that was a result. The offense is something that I’m used to. We did some of this back in [Bishop] Miege (Cozart’s High School). As I came out and just kept playing, I got more and more comfortable reading the defense and we just kept balling and playing good on offense.”

On the mood on the sidelines when KU jumped out to a big lead:
“Every time I came off somebody was congratulating me telling me to stay positive if we went three and out or something. Every time I came off guys were there telling me to keep going, way to keep leading, just different things like that for us to get a bigger lead. You could just feel the energy in everyone’s demeanor on the sidelines. It just felt positive. When everyone was carrying themselves with that swagger everyone’s talking about it and it carried over to us getting a victory.”

James Sims, Sr., Runningback
On the win:
“It felt amazing looking up at the scoreboard and us on top and them down, it’s a wonderful feeling. We did it as a whole, it wasn’t just one individual or anything like that. We did it as a whole and that’s a great thing.”

On the magnitude of beating West Virginia:
“We prepared well, it obviously sunk in knowing we weren’t going to a bowl game so we just wanted to treat the last three games that we have coming up as our bowl season. We just took down West Virginia so that’s one, now we’ve got to go to Ames, Iowa and get a win up there and make it number two.”

On his performance:
“Our object was to spread them out. That’s what the other teams did and they had success so our game plan was to spread them out. If they had five in the box, just hand the ball off, so we took advantage of the five man box today and we gashed them with it. Give credit to the offensive line up front, they won the line of scrimmage. Our whole preparation the whole week was to be physical up front and win the line of scrimmage and that’s what they did. Give props to those guys up front.

West Virginia Head Coach Dana Holgerson
Opening statement:
“I really apologized to the 12 seniors in there, apologized for not to getting to the 13th game. We got beat on all three sides of the ball. We got out-coached, got outplayed. I’ve warned them, this is different than the big east. The days of just showing up and playing at a very marginal level whether it’s effort, whether it’s execution, whether it’s coaching, whether it’s talent or whatever it is. You can’t show up and be average. I don’t care who it is. Our team’s good enough to where we can show up and play at a very high level and beat the best teams in the Big 12. Our team’s not good enough to where we can show up and play average and beat anybody. That’s obviously what happened today.”

On James Sims:
“We’ve stopped the run every week. It was very disappointing in the first half to not stop the run. We were anticipating (Montell) Cozart, the quarterback. We thought he handled things good for a first-time starter and just being in there. We anticipated that. We kind of knew that was going to happen. We knew what their plan was going to be. The game is won and lost up front 90 percent of the time. Their o-line whipped us. We didn’t tackle very good. We played a little better in the second half. Offensively, it was the same stuff. We didn’t run block very good, so everything kind of starts up front, whether it’s lost or won up front. Not to take anything away from Sims, he’s a good back and probably going to be one of their all-time leading rushers and has been a great player for them over the last couple of years.”

On if the outcome was based on their effort:
“I did not sense it early. I was proud of how they woke up and we had energy in the hotel. We got to the game and i thought there was energy in the locker room. We went out there and we started fast on offense, we scored. Then the defense went out there and they just laid down. Defensively, we didn’t play with very much energy. Our offense has relied on our defense all year and when they saw defense giving up points, i think our offense got shook. It’s another losing performance for our offense and obviously i take full responsibility for that.”

Paul Millard, Jr., Quarterback
On the offensive struggles today:
“We were moving the ball fine in the first half, we just could not finish our drives. In the second half, we got the ball back. That first interception, the kid made a great play. It was a mistake by me and we cannot afford mistakes like that.”

On how the weather affected his play:
“I had to throw the ball lower because of the wind. I couldn’t just hang it up there. It is what it is.”

Shaq Rowell, R-Sr., Defensive Line
On the play of James Sims:
“James Sims is phenomenal. I remember from last year that No. 29 was good. He was the man with the ball today. You can’t win a game when one guy rushes for over 200 yards.”

On the big plays KU made prior to the end of the first half:
“It was what it was. We had a pretty good chance to come back and try to win the game. At the end of the day, we got beat on all three sides of the ball. Kansas wanted it more than we did, from the first quarter through the fourth quarter.”