James Sims ran 16 times for 94 yards with a pair of rushing touchdowns, and the Kansas football team displayed an improved special-teams unit in a 31-14 victory over South Dakota on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
After having one of the worst special teams in the nation last year, KU received contributions in almost all areas from its specialists Saturday. Connor Embree had four punt returns for 92 yards, while Trevor Pardula had three touchbacks in six attempts (KU had seven touchbacks total in 2012) and Matthew Wyman knocked through a 45-yard field goal (KU's longest a year ago was 37 yards).
Justin McCay also ended a sour streak for KU, as his five-yard TD catch in the second quarter was the first TD catch for a KU receiver since October of 2011.
Though haunted by some drops, Jake Heaps was solid in his KU debut, completing 10 of 20 passes for 110 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.
Tony Pierson added 89 all-purpose yards, while Darrian Miller rushed 14 times for 72 yards and Keon Stowers chipped in an interception on defense.
Quarterback Josh Vander Maten led USD (1-1) with 78 rushing yards and a TD.
KU (1-0) will play at Rice at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 14.
2:18 — Drew Potter 2 pass from Josh Vander Maten. Miles Bergner kick. After being stuffed on its first two drives of the game, South Dakota rode the legs of quarterback Josh Vander Maten to a 55-yard, nine-play drive that took 3:54. Vander Maten ran for 24 yards and also completed three passes on the scoring drive that began with a holding penalty and also featured a 15-yard pass and catch on third-and-13. (USD 7, KU 0).
14:28 — James Sims 1 run. Matthew Wyman kick. The Jayhawks appeared to have scored on a strong second effort by wide receiver Josh Ford but replay ruled that Ford was down at the 1-yard line and the wait for a KU touchdown reception by a wide receiver continued. Two plays later, Sims took it in for the score. The drive covered 75 yards and 10 plays in 2:50 and also featured a deep pass from Jake Heaps to Tony Pierson. (USD 7, KU 7).
1:28 — Justin McCay 5 pass from Jake Heaps. Wyman kick. After a KU fumble gave the Coyotes the ball inside their own 5 yard line, the Jayhawks' defense held USD to a three-and-out and a punt. A good return by Connor Embree set KU up with first-and-goal at the 9 yard line and, two plays later, Heaps found McCay all alone in the back of the end zone over the middle and ended KU's wide receiver drought. (KU 14, USD 7).
7:34 — Sims 6 run. Wyman kick. After forcing a three-and-out on the first possession of the second half, Kansas marched 71 yards in 12 plays and 5:55 to push its lead to two scores. All 12 plays were runs, with Darrian Miller picking up 50 yards on five carries in the middle of the drive and Sims starting it and finishing it. (KU 21, USD 7).
12:24 — Matthew Wyman 45 field goal. KU's fourth scoring drive of the night was, by far, its shortest, but it was capped off by a pretty big moment for this team — a made field goal. Connor Embree's 42-yard punt return set the Jayhawks up in USD territory and four players later Wyman knocked a kick that KU probably would not have even tried a year ago through the uprights for the first field goal of his college career. (KU 24, USD 7).
7:36 — Josh Vander Maten 9 run. Bergner kick. South Dakota kept its hopes alive by converting a third-and-19 early in the drive when Vander Maten hit Tyson Graham Jr. with a 37-yard pass behind the KU defense. A few plays later, the elusive quarterback rumbled in from nine yards out untouched to pull the Coyotes within 10. (KU 24, USD 14).
7:34 — Brandon Bourbon 8 run. Wyman kick. Kansas needed just 1:30 to regain a comfortable margin on the scoreboard. This one, like KU's first scoring drive of the second half, was all runs, as Pierson and Sims each carried once and Bourbon twice. The drive covered 73 yards in four plays. (KU 31, USD 14).
KU runs out the clock and improves to 1-0.
This punt rolls out of bounds. The bettors who took KU -23.5 will be interested in this drive.
KU answers with a four-play, 73-yard drive. All four plays were runs.