WVU football: Kansas beats Mountaineers to end losing streak
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Kansas ended a 27-game losing streak in Big 12 play as well as West Virginia's 11-year streak of playing in a bowl game by running over the Mountaineers Saturday, 31-19.
A Memorial Stadium crowd of 30,089 saw KU running back James Sims rush for a career-high 211 yards and three scores as the Jayhawks won with 61 yards passing and 315 yards rushing.
"I've warned them that this is different than the Big East," Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "The years of 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, whatever it is, you can't show up and be average and win. I don't care who it is."
The attendance was the lowest at a WVU game since 25,893 saw WVU beat Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium in 2005, though that may be in peril for the finale against Iowa State in two weeks with the students away on Thanksgiving break.
After that game, a long offseason awaits Holgorsen, who is now 21-16 as the head coach and 11-13 since the Orange Bowl victory against Clemson. Six of the losses have come with 14 or fewer points, including three this season, each with just one offensive touchdown. A fourth of each was on the way against Kansas before two touchdowns in the final five minutes.
Holgorsen had never missed a bowl in 13 seasons as a Football Bowl Subdivision assistant or head coach.
"I appreciate you reminding me of that," he said. "I guess this would be Year No. 14. I guess this would be an all-time low - not to take anything away from Kansas. They'd been close. We've seen it. We've talked about it. They've been close and they did a good job. Their effort was good. They sensed victory and they whooped us."
WVU set up two Kansas touchdowns with interceptions Saturday. The second in the fourth quarter was returned 28 yards to the WVU 1-yard line and set up Brandon Bourbon's score for a 31-7 lead with 6:24 remaining. It's the largest lead for the Jayhawks this season.
The Mountaineers, who last missed a bowl in 2001 and had won at least eight games every year before finishing 7-6 last season, didn't score for a stretch of 12 drives and 54 minutes, 2 seconds. They needed two pass interference penalties on a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive late that made it 31-13 before taking a delay of game penalty on the two-point conversion.
Charles Sims later added a six-yard touchdown run following a Jayhawks turnover.
"When you come in someone else's house and you're not ready to play, they're going to take it from you," WVU nose guard Shaq Rowell said. "Those guys knew we were playing for a bowl bid and they said, 'We're going to take their bowl bid. They're not going to a bowl game.' They spoiled our dreams. That's what you live for as a player - to go out there and have something to play for. We had something to play for and they took it."
WVU played without quarterback Clint Trickett, who traveled with the team, but was not in uniform. Millard completed 23 of 42 passes for 242 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions while Ford Childress was in uniform for the first time since tearing his right pectoral muscle against Maryland Sept. 21.
Sims ran for 99 yards and a score and added 29 yards and a touchdown receiving as WVU (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) outgained Kansas (3-7, 1-6) 386-376. Daikiel Shorts caught six passes for 40 yards and Mario Alford gained 76 yards on three receptions.
In additions to James Sims, Kansas had quarterback Montell Cozart gain 60 yards on 13 carries and Bourbon gain 48 yards on 12 carries. Cozart, a freshman in his first start, completed 5 of 12 passes. The Jayhawks were 5-for-15 on third down and punted seven times.
"Sixty-one passing yards, 5-for-12 (passing), 33 percent on third down?" Rowell said. "We did everything right but give up those 300 rushing yards."
Kansas hadn't won a conference game since Nov. 6, 2010. Its last Big 12 win against a current Big 12 team was 13 months and eight games before that against Iowa State. The students rushed the field after the offense took a knee on the final play of Saturday's game.
"It felt amazing looking up at the scoreboard and seeing us on top of them," Sims said. "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."
The Jayhawks enjoyed their first halftime lead since the season opener against South Dakota and added to it quickly in the third quarter.
Millard's tough-luck interception on WVU's first drive set up a Kansas score. Linebacker Ben Goodman stopped on his way to Millard and jumped in the air to defend a quick pass intended for Kevin White, who finished with three catches for nine yards and a late touchdown.
Goodman caught the ball and returned it 54 yards to WVU's 14. Cozart ran for seven yards on third-and-5 and Sims' third touchdown of the game gave him a new career high for rushing yards and Kansas a 24-7 lead.
Holgorsen then got a little desperate. Kansas had 24 yards on its first three drives of the third quarter and punts of 10 and 22 yards, the second giving WVU possession at its 49. Millard threw deep and incomplete on first and second down and then out of bounds to Charles Sims on third down. Rather than punt with six minutes left in the quarter, Holgorsen went for it on fourth down and a pass to Shorts was incomplete across the middle.
Kansas ended up gaining just 12 yards and punting it back, but downed it at the 1.
Coming off last week's 47-40 overtime loss to Texas, the Mountaineers were sharp at the start of their first 11 a.m. CST kickoff as a Big 12 member. Sims ran for 27 yards on the first play from scrimmage and Alford skipped across the middle for 30 yards on a screen pass. A six-play drive ended on third-and-five when Sims lined up as a receiver and caught a quick pass from Millard and slipped between blockers for a 12-yard touchdown.
Kansas answered with a field goal, but did itself in with a holding penalty on first-and-goal at the WVU 6.
They traded punts, but WVU ended the first quarter ahead and moving after Millard converted a third-down pass to Shorts for 12 yards. At the end of the quarter played into a strong and sustained wind, Millard was 8-for-9 for 84 yards and a touchdown. The only vertical throw of the quarter was the final pass and only because Millard scrambled to avoid pressure. He completed 5 of 6 passes to slot receivers and running backs on quick, short throws.
When the second quarter started, Millard wasn't asked to make those simple throws and WVU's offense stalled. He completed 6 of 11 passes for 89 yards, and 46 of those came on another quick throw to Alford, who made defenders miss in the open field. Millard was also sacked twice, both times on third down as WVU eventually punted at the end of five straight possessions.
The Jayhawks scored twice in the second quarter, first on a short run by James Sims following his 62-yard run that stood briefly as the team's longest of the season. After a delay of game on a punt that went into the end zone, Nick O'Toole kicked again and had the ball go out of bounds at the 32 with 39 seconds left in the half.
Kansas ran a simple toss play to the right and Sims cut it back into the middle and was untouched for a 68-yard touchdown.
WVU tried to get points to end the half and a 30-yard catch-and-run by Wendell Smallwood and a short run into the middle of the field set up Josh Lambert for a 42-yard attempt. Lambert's kick was blocked by Keba Augistinho, which ended Lambert's streak of 10 straight made kicks and sent the Jayhawks into the locker room leading 17-7.
"We played with great effort last week and came up short and we played with horrible effort this week," offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson said. "It's probably the most disappointing game of the year. We came in and just didn't give ourselves a chance."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.