Second half Kansas woes lead to a 44-20 Oklahoma State victory

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – After a quick start and a season-high passing performance by redshirt junior Montell Cozart, Kansas lost its momentum in the second half as Oklahoma State was able to break away and record a 44-20 win on Saturday afternoon inside Memorial Stadium.
Cozart orchestrated the offense to 454 yards – throwing the ball for 250 and a touchdown. The Kansas City native managed to complete 25 of his 40 attempts, but also tossed two interceptions on the day.
The Jayhawks also showcased a rejuvenated running game as senior running back Ke’aun Kinner recorded the best game of his season, carrying 14 times for 145 yards. Kinner split the load with sophomore running back Taylor Martin, who managed 32 yards and a touchdown.
After an effective Kansas (1-6, 0-4) first half attack featuring 234-total yards, the mistakes began to pile up for the Jayhawks as Cozart threw consecutive third quarter interceptions resulting in a 10-unanswered points for the Cowboys (5-2, 3-1).
Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph completed 16 of his 24 passes for 220 yards and a score, but the Cowboys most potent weapon was running back Justice Hill who carried 22 times for 162 and a touchdown.
A first quarter strip-sack by senior safety Fish Smithson – who notched a career-best 16 tackles – caused a momentum-turning turnover for Oklahoma State that allowed Kansas to post the first points of the game with a 68-yard pass from Cozart to junior LaQuvionte Gonzalez. Oklahoma State wouldn’t be denied and quickly answered with a touchdown of their own off of a one-yard rush, capping a six-play, 75-yard response.
The Kansas offense was able to take the lead back as Kinner broke free for 25 yards to put the Jayhawks in Oklahoma State territory and set up a 29-yard field goal, 10-3. The two teams continued to battle, exchanging field goals, until two big passes put the Cowboys in the red zone, resulting in a one-yard touchdown rush, tying the contest at 10.
Capped by a crucial sack from sophomore defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas was able to hold off Oklahoma State on its final drive to enter the locker room down by only four at halftime, 17-13. Registering three sacks in the first half, Kansas’ defense kept the scoring low as Smithson tallied nine of his stops in the opening 30 minutes.  
Momentum swung in favor of Oklahoma State to begin the second half. The Cowboys stripped out a fumble and recovered possession at the KU 26-yard line and made quick work with a 15-yard touchdown pass to go ahead, 24-13.
The Jayhawks refused to go away, marching 75 yards down the field for a six-yard touchdown rush by Martin, 24-20.
As the momentum swung for Oklahoma State, Kansas could not come up with the answers as the ensuing two drives resulted in interceptions.
The Cowboys managed to hold the Jayhawks scoreless for the remainder of the game while putting another touchdown and field goal on the board to end the contest with a victory, 44-20. 

Kansas head coach David Beaty
Q. Coach, a lot of positives from this one. Sometimes it comes down to kind of one segment of the game, and we thought it kind of came down to the third quarter. I think they had 29 total yards and 17 points. It was just one of those troublesome quarters?
DAVID BEATY: Yeah, that kind of tells the tale right there. There were a couple things I was actually very happy with today. I thought our running game got going again, which is something we’ve really been putting a lot of emphasis on, which we needed that. Montell (Cozart), I thought, did a workman’s job.

Neither one of those picks were actually his fault. One of them they drop a nose, and man, they got us on that one. It’s a good call, and it happens every now and then. They hadn’t really shown that up until this point, but they got us on that one. It was a good call. I told you, Glenn Spencer is pretty good now. He knows what he’s doing. The other one, if we can keep that from hitting Quiv (LaQuvionte Gonzalez) in the face, we could have had a big play there, and it turned out to be a big play for them.

So those are the types of things that we’ve got to continue to avoid, because it led to some points for them. I think there were 17 points off turnovers for them. 7 points off turnovers for us, and that’s a big stat line.

Q. Your defense, a lot of guys running downhill, especially a couple of safeties getting their nose in on every play. Got a bunch of tackles for loss. How pleased are you with the way the defense played today?
DAVID BEATY: Very pleased with a lot of the things they did. We’ve got do a better job getting them off the field on third down. There were a couple key third downs that led to points. I know we’d love to see those guys get off the field there. They were getting the first by maybe half a yard. We’ve got to do a little better to get those guys off the field, with the exception of the second to last drive, I was okay with the effort the guys were running and really balling.

That second to last drive, that’s inexcusable. We’ll never have that effort around here again, not while I’m here, and the kids understand that. But prior to that, I thought they had played really hard and had given us a chance to stay in the game.

Q. You mentioned that second to last drive, I think you were leading in total yards up until that point. So you’ve got to be pleased with the fact that your offense did put together some yardage today?
DAVID BEATY: It’s an improvement. But the only stat that matters at the end of the day is the points on the board. We scored 20 points. Yeah, we moved the ball quite a bit up-and-down the field. But we put 20 points on the board. I know we went for it on fourth down down there, but we were in a situation where we needed a touchdown there, and we felt good about the call, and we just didn’t execute it well enough. We’ve got to be able to score more than 20 points. We’ve got good enough players to do that, and we’ve got to keep executing better.

Q. You mentioned a couple of those turnovers, maybe not necessarily on Montell overall, how did you think he played?
DAVID BEATY: I thought he played really well. He managed the game really well, which was a big focus for us this week. He started on the game fast by making good decisions and not putting the ball in jeopardy. The pick to the D-tackle, they got us on that one. The dude is rushing, he drops back to the middle of the field, we got a hot route call there, and they hadn’t shown that.

So if the guy’s not there, we go for it a good ways. But, hey, they did a good job there, but sometimes they get you. That wasn’t on him. The one later, I didn’t feel like that was on him either. I felt we put it right on Cliff’s face, and normally Cliff comes down with that. It just hit him in the face, bounced off, and we didn’t make the play.

Opening Statement
Well, you know, disappointed, obviously, to come in here and speak to you after one we felt like we had some real opportunities to capitalize on and really be a factor in a Big 12 game here. I thought we started off fast, which was something that we needed to do. I was pleased with the way that Montell Cozart handled the game, the way he managed the game. He had a couple of turnovers that neither one of those am I going to be able to put on Montell. You know, they got us on the one, that was a good call by Glenn. Glenn’s a good defensive coordinator. They made the right call at the time. We had a hot route call, and he dropped the nose right to it. It’s something we’ve seen before, but not out of them. So that’s not on Montell.

But I tell you what, I love the way our guys played defensively. They really got after those guys. I had not seen people put as much pressure on them as we were able to get today. So there are some real positives there. We were able to get to him and hit him a few times. They normally don’t turn the football over, and I know we got one, which was good, and we got points off of it. That was critical.

But the telling stat for me, is the 17 points off turnover for us. The fumble really, really hurt. That one killed us. We had a couple other mistakes, you know, the botched catch in the end zone there right as we came out at halftime that killed us. I mean, we’re backed up inside our 10 again, and that’s a hard place to start. But you’ve got to be able to deal with the situation. We weren’t able to do it, but those are mistakes that should have been handled.

One with Quiv down there, backed up in our own end. All he had to do was stick his foot out of bounds and the ball comes down at the 40-yard line, Thursday, we went that last Thursday, we knew that, and yet we got the ball on the 9 or the 13 instead of the 40, by understanding what would have happened had he stood out of bounds and grabbed the ball.

So am I upset about that? Yep, I’m upset, because we already knew it. And those are the types of things that we’ve got to grow up, because when we don’t, you’re going to have a hard time winning in one of the finest leagues on the face of the planet. So we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re getting better. I love the way our guys fight and they stay together. But we’ve still got a long way to go.

Q. You switched between Ryan Willis at quarterback and Montell Cozart. Is Cozart the guy the rest of the way, or are you still trying to evaluate both of these guys?
DAVID BEATY: Well, Montell did a really nice job today. He did a nice job of managing the game, and that’s really what we’re looking for. He did everything I really had asked him to do in this ballgame. I thought his eyes were really good. He didn’t really put the ball in jeopardy other than that one.

I thought he did some great things with his feet today, which is something that we had been talking about. We put a lot of emphasis on that this week. We actually had some calls and some reads for him. It just didn’t present itself very often. We called five or six run plays that were going to be pulls or reads and things like that, which is something we’ve got to get going with Montell. I was really pleased with the way he played today. It’s a great example for the rest of those young guys about what will happen if you keep your eyes in the right place and you play by the rules.

Q. Is he your guy against Oklahoma?
DAVID BEATY: He is my guy against Oklahoma. But the rest of them better get ready to play, because you’re one snap away from being the starter. So he’s no different than any other position.

Q. Ke’aun (Kinner) led you guys in rushing. LaQuvionte led you in receiving. But did their mistakes in the game hurt you just as much?
DAVID BEATY: I tell you what, I thought Ke’aun ran really well. The turnover was a tough blow. There is no doubt about that. Our defense really kind of stood up there and they got a field goal off that one, if I’m not mistaken. But that was a tough blow because we were moving the ball well, and he had some really good runs on that drive which we need from him.

We needed to get that run game going again, and it was good to get that going this week, and I’m proud of the guys up front, because they actually took the challenge and they were able to move guys off the ball, and that’s what you’ve got to do in this league. They were able to move and create creases and our guys found creases throughout the day that helped us.

Q. You guys just have to play without any turnovers in the game that you have a chance of knocking off one of these Big 12 teams?
DAVID BEATY: Most teams need to play without turnovers. It’s not realistic for it to happen like that all the time. But for us, we’re in such a situation right now that you do feel like you have to play mistake-free football because it’s hard to overcome it, you know? I mean, that score gets up to 37 pretty quick, and you’re like, what in the world just happened? How did it get there? And you can’t let yourself stew on it too long because you need to get back out there and try to get that thing in the end zone.

Q. What was the thought process on the 59-yard field goal drive? Did you think he could do that?
DAVID BEATY: Yeah, we did. We think he (Matthew Wyman) can make it. We’ve seen him do it on several occasions. He had hit two, I think, at that point going in. And he’s involved in our decision making there as is Coach DeForest, and both those guys felt good about it. Probably the reason it got blocked is he was driving it a little bit. That’s obviously a little risky.

But I felt better about that than most people think. He’s got a really, really strong leg, and, you know, we felt like he could make it, and we wanted to go on with points. We were trying to be aggressive. We were trying to go in with points there. And I felt better about that than a Hail Mary, because we haven’t had a lot of those at this point. We haven’t executed a bunch. We had a lot more field goals.

Q. Montell, was it his ball security that was the main reason for that?
DAVID BEATY: Game management. Being able to take care of the ball, that’s the number one thing. And I think if you go back to one of the first days I ever spoke about our offense, the number one thing is that guy’s got to be able to manage the game. It was very clear for us this week as we went through practice who did that the best for us. And as we go back and look at the bodies of work and see who doesn’t put us in jeopardy with regard to reads. You’ve got to read. I mean, you don’t get to pick guys out in college football. When you do, it hurts. It’s not good. It comes to the tune of picks all over the place.

So he did really nice job with his eyes today. I was really proud of him. The thing I was most proud of is if you look at that locker room in there and how much they’re behind Montell Cozart, that’s cool to see, because he deserves it.

Q. Mike Lee continues to play well, was that a highlight for you guys especially in the first half to get the breakup in the end zone? How’s he progressing?
DAVID BEATY: He’s getting better, and better each week. He did some really nice things today. I thought he made some great plays. That break-up was a really nice play. He’s a physical guy now, and he’s a sure tackler. He gets them down. When they break out, there are three or four times today where the guy had a chance to get out. And if he breaks that tackle, they’re going to go for a while if he gets them down. We knew coming in that he could do that. He still has some mistakes on occasion that cost us. We had that long one down there that if he would have taken the proper angle, I think he might have picked it. And that happens when you’re young, but would have been nice to see him pick it off.

Q. Khalil Herbert was not dressed out today, was that due to injury?
DAVID BEATY: Yeah, he’s got a great toe sprain kind of type deal, and hopefully we can get him back this week. We thought we might be able to get him going. But towards the end of the week yesterday he just wasn’t able to push off of it. So we went with the guys that we had and tried to get him some rest so we could get him back for next week. We definitely need him.

Q. Did it fall off Quiv’s face mask on that interception?
DAVID BEATY: I really didn’t have a lot of chance to see it. It did look like it kind of went off his helmet. I think he was trying to roll his neck, and I think it went off his face mask is what I think. Montell I think was trying to lead him down the hash, and Quiv drove it a little bit to the middle. And just changed that trajectory a little bit, and that might be the difference maker on that play.

But I think he just kind of misplayed it just a bit, and it hit his face mask and bounced right up. Unfortunate that it happened because we had a big play there.

Q. It seems like Montell is really comfortable with Quiv, do they have good chemistry?
DAVID BEATY: I think that him and all those guys. He trusts all those guys. Montell trusts them, and he empowers those kids. He knows that Shak’s (Shakiem Barbel) going to be there for him, so he’s not afraid to get that ball to Shak. I’ve been around a lot of them that won’t throw to certain guys, but he’ll throw to every one of them. He trusts them and empowers those guys.

I thought he did some good things finding guys. Because he extended plays with his feet today, which was something that we needed him to do because he’s got talent when it comes to that.

Q. With him improving with using his feet, could you seeing the designed run play for Montell?
DAVID BEATY: Yeah. I mean, we had some of that in today. If you noticed before Ryan (Willis) had taken over, that’s when he was coming off of a separated shoulder against Memphis. So we had him strapped down. He played in that game, but he still had a completely separated shoulder from that game previous. So we weren’t going to run him then and get him knocked out, and then things kind of turned a little bit and we went with Ryan for a couple weeks to see if we could get a spark out of that. Now we’ve got him rolling back. We think he can be a weapon with his feet.

Q. You guys played from the beginning from behind, but then you were able to kind of get a bang-bang sequence. Got the fumble and recovered it and one play and you’re up suddenly. Does the team need sequences like that to kind of give you some momentum through games so they have a chance to hang around?
DAVID BEATY: Yeah, we do. We’d like to play that way. That’s a lot better than playing from behind. So, yeah, that’s something most teams want to do. We were able to do it early today. What really is frustrating for all of us is that it kind of got out of hand really quickly.

I don’t think it was indicative of how the game was played, and that’s what’s frustrating for me. I thought we could have been in that game until the very end, and we made too many mistakes there at the end that lead to points. In this conference, you can’t do it.

I thought our defense did a good job of holding them and getting them to a field goal there. But we should have gotten off the field a lot earlier when we had them backed up inside our five, because then we’re going to get the ball back and now we’ve got a chance to get two more scores.

Q. You mentioned the O-line; was it a better match-up or just your guys rising to the challenge?
DAVID BEATY: They’re good now. 96 is really good. Vincent Taylor is a real dude. That guy’s an NFL guy, and their ends are better than you think they are. I think our guys are getting a little bit better, which is good. I’m going to have to watch the tape, but there was some real challenge thrown out to those guys this week.

But I thought Montell did a nice job of not getting those guys exposed by getting rid of the ball on time, using his eyes. That’s really how it can work when you do it correctly. So I think they are getting better. There were a couple of guys that Mesa threw up all night last night. He threw up this morning. He was throwing up on the sideline. He was sick. He was going with some kind of flu or something, and Joe went down, and he had to go to center. And the dude was sick as a ghost, man. He looked like a ghost, he was so white.

But I was proud of that dude because he never asked out one time. He’s a tough kid.

Q. Overall, encouraged? You were talking about the passing and what it looked like. It’s been a while since it looked like that. Is that an encouraging thing?
DAVID BEATY: It was very encouraging. We had several opportunities missed today, and, man, if we can get those things knocked out, it’s going to be a lot of fun. It should feel like it’s about to explode. It should feel like that. And I felt like we were there, and we just weren’t able to put more points on the board since we got in the early red. In the red, we were two or three.

But to me, that doesn’t tell the story. We are down there in the early red, we’re right outside the red, and we don’t get in the end zone, and that kills you. We need to get in the end zone, not kick field goals in those situations. We cannot. We’ve got to score touchdowns. We can’t kick field goals. So we were 2 of 3 basically with field goals, I guess, is what it amounted to.

But I really liked our receivers. I think those guys are really quick. I think they’re really fast. They’re as fast as anybody in this league. If we can give them some protection and get the right reads and get the ball out on time, those dudes are dangerous. They’re dangerous. We’ll get better each week, and we’ll build off Montell’s showing to be able to get those guys the ball in more space quickly, which will be good.

Q. Cozart hadn’t played in a couple of weeks, but he seemed to handle the time off pretty well. Did you just expect that out of him at this point?
DAVID BEATY: Number one, one of the finest character kids I’ve ever been around in my life. So the way he handled the last two weeks, I mean, you would expect nothing different out of Montell Cozart. He continued to improve. He practiced. I mean, we still split the reps five and five, so he was continuing to get better.

Man, if they were all like him, we’d be in pretty good shape. And most of them are. But he’s pretty special. So I was proud of him. We’ve got to score more points though to get that ball in the end zone so we can win the game, man. You’ve got to score 43 points in this conference to win games. You have to. And it didn’t feel like it, I don’t think at times, but they scored 43 points. We have to be able to get in the end zone and score 43 points.

I know we’re a work in progress, but we can do that. We just need to execute a little bit better. You know what I’m saying? All right. Thank you, guys.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Kansas senior RB Ke’aun Kinner
On KU’s running game today:
“We said it all week; once we get every man going the same direction, it’s going to open up. We really just did our job, (we) can’t really do anything else. Everyone (needs to) just focus on their job. We made it work.”

On improving future score lines:
“We just have to stop making mistakes. I mean, everything was working, everything was going our way; we just didn’t capitalize.”
On Montell Cozart at QB today instead of Ryan Willis:
“There’s really no difference, they can sling the ball. We have to go with whoever is back there.”
On Cozart’s performance:
“He took command. I’ve always seen that in Montell. He ran the offense. You can’t ask anything else of him. He’s a natural-born leader, that’s it.”
Kansas sophomore WR Steven Sims Jr.
On the game-changing moment today:
“I feel like we still had a chance after all of the things that happened because with our offense, we can score at any second. I feel like we’re always in the game.”

On QB differences:
“I haven’t noticed. Both of them just lead us, they’re leaders. I feel Montell might be a little more vocal, but they’re both great leaders.”
On scoring more points:
“We just have to execute offensively, everyone has to do their job. I expect a lot of myself every week, I just hope I can do more.”
On finishing games strong:
“We just have to stay focused, trust the coaches and our attention to detail. (We need to) stay locked in because any little thing can cost you the game.”
On KU’s running backs’ performance today:
“I feel like they had a great game today and that always opens up the passing game for us. So I just hope they continue to go to work and prepare for every game and we’ll be successful.”
On the team wanting a conference win:
“We’re starving. We want to get that win so badly in the Big 12 because the win over Rhode Island was a win, but we want to beat a team in our conference to prove to everybody that we can beat a DI AA or DI A team too.”
Kansas sophomore DE Dorance Armstrong Jr.
On how the defense played today:
“I think we played pretty well for the most part. We’ve got a lot that we can work on. We’ve got to come back next week and learn from our mistakes and be better.”
On negative plays:
“We just compete every week, we know our goals for the game; we just have to come back and execute our goals.”
On how Fish Smithson and Mike Lee contributed today:
“We need guys to come down and make plays. Fish and Mike, that’s just what they do.”
On his seven sacks in the past three games:
“It’s a good feeling. I love doing it. I feel good about it and I’ve just got to keep working at it.”
On what Coach Bowen said about the last touchdown drive:
“He was heated. It was a long drive, we gave up and that’s not something we do. He was just mad about it and the defense was too. We just gave up and we can’t do that.”

Kansas junior S Fish Smithson
On his opportunities to get stops today:
“Yeah, that definitely was the game plan. It changes from week to week.”

On the scoreboard and defensive effort today:
“Coach wants the scoreboard to look differently, of course, at the end of the game. We definitely did a few things I did like. We played great at the quarterback (position). Dorance (Armstrong Jr.) is having an All-American season in my opinion. I think we’re doing a great job.”
On the turnovers today:
“They’re a great team, (are) well coached and they’ve got a great system, but we’ve got some good things as well.”
On Mike Lee:
“He’s tough, fast and furious. He’s just learning, but he’s got great athletic ability and he’s coachable.”
On the locker room emotions:
“Our team is a very close-knit group. Offense plays really close with defense. We don’t let the end game result tear us apart.”

Kansas redshirt junior QB Montell Cozart
On Coach Beaty’s message to him this week:
“He just came up to me and told me that he trusted me and all year that I’ve shown confidence and that I can take care of the ball. He was in my ear all week, just telling me to go out there and be me.”

On managing the game and what that means to him:
“(I have to) Just go out there, be myself, just manage the game and have fun.”
On how he felt going into this game:
“I did (have a good feel going into the game). Film started early this week and (we were) just studying and studying. They [Oklahoma State] didn’t give much on defense and when they did it was obvious. You knew exactly what they were trying to do. Just starting earlier in the week with preparation and studying film allows the game to slow down for you.”
On being taking out of the lineup and then put back in:
“Everything happens for a reason and I just continue trusting in the good Lord, the man above. Like I said, everything happens for a reason. I just went out there trying to lead these guys to a victory. I just took it for what it was and the guys in the locker room and the coaches have confidence in me and really trust me, so that makes it easy to go out there and perform.”
On playing at Oklahoma next week:
“That’s a big one. Going down there to Norman, Oklahoma’s a great team. We just have to study and believe. Hopefully (we’ll) go down there and be in the game and hopefully get the upset on the road.”
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy
“Our coaches made really good adjustments in the second half and our players did a nice job of taking it out on the field. Kansas’ adjustment defensively, in the third quarter, was blitz. They came out and brought pressure on the first down from the safety position. Then we had to adjust again after that. Defensively, we started to drop some down linemen, show more pressure in the back and for that reason we were able to force some turnovers. As you guys know, most of the games we play at this level, for everybody, are about turnovers, limiting big plays and being sound in special teams. Our special teams were excellent today. We kicked the ball well, we recovered well. We made those adjustments at halftime.
“Kansas made the decision to play a guy over the top of James (Washington) today and limited his ability to get the ball, which allowed us to run the football. Then your slot receiver, which is (Jalen) McCleskey, gets essentially man coveraged, for a lack of a better term. The adjustments we made were good. There are no easy wins. Each week they’re tough, no matter where you’re at.
“I think that Coach Beaty and those guys have done a good job. They’re considerably better than they were last year, in my opinion. The part of the game that we watch in detail, then seeing them, they’ve made really good strides. They should be congratulated for that.

“I was happy for Ben Grogan, becoming the all-time leading scorer. That’s a great accomplishment for him. He’s a great young man, hard-worker, self-motivated. It’s a great team award, because obviously you have to score a lot or be in the position to score a lot for him to break that record.

“(We’re) Ready to pack it up and head home and relax this evening then get ready for West Virginia tomorrow.”
Oklahoma State redshirt junior DT Vincent Taylor
On the interception and pitch:
“People were telling me I just should have kept it and taken it to the crib, but one thing Coach talks about is selfishness. They really don’t want us tossing the ball like that, but when we got to the sideline it was a fun play for the defense.”
On the team’s defense in the second half:
“Coming into every game that’s what we work on, trying to get turnovers. As a defense we got off to a slow start. We were able to come out and make some changes during the second half and we were able to get our offense back the ball.”
Oklahoma State sophomore WR Jalen McClesky
On Justice Hill:
“I’ve been saying since he came in that he was the real deal and that he would have a really good season.”

Oklahoma State junior QB Mason Rudolph
On the offense’s run game today:
“(It was) Not only running backs, the offensive linemen did a heck of a job out there. (We were) Taking on a lot of looks we hadn’t seen, like we’re getting from everyone in the conference lately.”
On Kansas’ five sacks:
“They’re (KU) throwing different looks at us. They’re trying to take away the deep ball and trying to pressure us. You’ve got to eat it sometimes and take care of the ball.”
On Kansas’ defense taking away James Washington:
“We’re always trying to be ready for that. That’s going to be something defenses are going to try to do to us.”
UP NEXT: Kansas will travel to Oklahoma for a 6 p.m. kickoff with the Sooners. Kickoff from Norman will be at 6 p.m., and televised live on FOX Sports 1. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.