Kansas defeats West Virginia, 31-19

  • 11 a.m., Nov. 16, 2013
  • David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, KS

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Kansas football finally catches fire in 31-19 win

Kansas running back James Sims runs off the field to the hearty applause of Jayhawk fans following the Jayhawks' 31-19 win over West Virginia on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas running back James Sims runs off the field to the hearty applause of Jayhawk fans following the Jayhawks' 31-19 win over West Virginia on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.


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Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Charlie Weis post-game vs. West Virginia

Charlie Weis post-game vs. West Virginia

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KU 31, W. Va. 19

Box score

All season, as Kansas University’s football team struggled to score points and hang in there with faster, more explosive Big 12 foes, coaches and fans alike racked their brains looking for some kind of a spark.

Saturday afternoon, senior running back James Sims served as the flint to freshman quarterback Montell Cozart’s steel, and together the 1-2 punch set fire to the scoreboard in a 31-19 victory over West Virginia in front of a crowd of 30,089 fans at Memorial Stadium.

The 27-game Big 12 losing streak is over. The Rock Chalk Chant is back at Memorial Stadium. And, just as Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis insisted could happen, all seems right again with the KU football program.

“Let’s start with the kids who have been here five years and gone through multiple coaches and everything with that,” Weis said. “They’re the ones that you feel best for. But I also feel good for all our students and fans that endured those losses.”

The two groups came together following the victory over West Virginia (4-7, 2-6), with students and fans rushing the field and meeting the team near midfield to sing the alma mater and celebrate a day in which KU fell behind 7-0 and responded with 31 unanswered points to improve to 3-7 overall and 1-6 in Big 12 play.

Asked if what unfolded Saturday was the scene he envisioned when he started the tradition of singing with the fans following games — win or lose — KU’s second-year head coach, who nearly teared up during his postgame television interview, flashed a look of satisfaction.

“Maybe not on the field,” he joked. “But it was actually kind of nice it worked out that way. The students that were there got to celebrate with the players. I’ve got kids sticking phones in my face and everything like that, but … the student body, it’s been awhile since they’ve been able to enjoy it, too. I’m happy for them as well.”

For Cozart, the true freshman from nearby Bishop Miege High who had played some during the past four weeks but was making his first collegiate start, the whole day was basically one big blurry smile. His numbers were decent — 13 carries for 60 yards, 5-of-12 passing for 61 more. He graded himself a solid B, and his poise and command of the offense more closely resembled something you’d expect to see from a senior. After the game, however, when he was made available to the media for the first time this season, Cozart looked every bit the kid in the candy store, smiling the whole time while reminiscing about all of the good moments that led to him becoming 1-0 as a KU starter.

“As a kid, you see teams winning a big game and fans rushing the field,” Cozart said. “For me to be a part of that for the first time, my first start, first win in the Big 12 Conference, I can’t put that into words.”

Asked for his reaction to the postgame celebration that ended with the south goal posts falling for the first time in years, Cozart flashed his signature smile and demonstrated just how focused he was on Saturday’s game plan.

“It surprised me because I was out there shaking the West Virginia defense, and the next thing I know, I just see a whole crowd of fans coming at me,” Cozart said of kneeling down to kill the clock in the final seconds. “It was a great moment, and there’s more to come.”

After spending weeks tweaking the depth chart, the offensive line and even the roles of his assistant coaches, Weis finally found the magic touch for the offense and then watched with pride as his Jayhawks ran for a season-high 315 yards and matched a season best with 31 points.

“We spread the hell out of ’em today,” Weis said. “I figured everyone else in the league’s doing it to us, why not do it to them?”

Cozart, the first true freshman to start at quarterback for KU since Adam Barmann in 2003, said the offense KU ran Saturday was similar to what Baylor has done this season in that it incorporated just a handful of core plays but could use multiple options off of each look.

“I don’t think they were expecting us to play that style of game,” Weis said.

Added Cozart: “It’s something I’m used to. I did something like this back at Miege. ... When they put that in, coach (Ron) Powlus asked me how I felt about it, and I said, ‘I love it.’”

Cozart was far from the only one to feel that way. Sims, the senior who has led KU in rushing for four straight seasons, finished with a career-high 211 yards rushing on 22 carries. He also added three touchdowns, including a 68-yard scamper with 28 seconds left in the half that turned a 10-7 KU lead into a 17-7 advantage and sent the Jayhawks to the locker room with a lift.

“James was ballin’, man,” Cozart said. “That’s James Sims. He’s been doing that. And then today, I just felt like he broke out. Every time we gave him the ball, it was positive yards.”

Asked about his big run just before halftime, Sims said it was a simple play that was designed to get a big chunk of yardage and wound up going the distance. He credited the offensive line for dominating up front all day and credited technology for helping him reach the end zone untouched.

“It felt good just to be in the secondary,” he said. “I looked up at the Jumbotron, and I didn’t see anyone behind me.”

Sims, who has 3,396 career rushing yards and needs 446 more in KU’s final two games to pass June Henley as KU’s all-time rusher, said individual achievements did not mean much to him right now. He’s much more focused on living in the moment and basking in the joy of finally beating a Big 12 foe again. It has been three full years and four seasons since KU topped Colorado, 52-45, on Nov. 6, 2010, when Sims rumbled for four touchdowns as a true freshman in a comeback victory.

“I feel like this one is better,” Sims said. “Because when we got on top, we stayed on top.”

Added junior safety Cassius Sendish, who led KU with 11 tackles: “This is something that you dream about. We did something that the team hadn’t done in a long time, and you could tell. You could really tell. That was the first time I’ve ever been on the field where it was actually stormed by the crowd. It was exhilarating.”


Steven Mathew 8 years, 10 months ago

I may be wrong, but isn't the last time a true freshman started at quarterback Todd Reesing in 2006 or 2007? They pulled the redshirt off Todd Reesing and he played against Colorado. Did he not start any games after that Colorado game in whatever season it was when he was a freshman?

Matt Tait 8 years, 10 months ago

He didn't. Barely played the rest of the way that season, in fact.

Phil Leister 8 years, 10 months ago

They only showed the replay once. It was close and probably a 50/50 call if Weis had challenged it. My first instinct was that it was a TD.

Daniel Reinigungsmittel 8 years, 10 months ago

On my DVR, and with my unbiased opinion, the ball hit the line before he was down. TD Heeney.

Aaron Paisley 8 years, 10 months ago

Had KU challenged, I think it would've stayed the call on the field because I couldn't tell definitively if he got in or not. Had it been ruled a TD, I think it would've stayed a TD.

W Keith Swinehart II 8 years, 10 months ago

Happy for the team, coaches and fans. Solid play, avoided turnovers and penalties for three quarters. Recovery after early WVA touchdown was huge. Team played with fire and emotion.

They made mistakes but have learned from them the entire year. Not there yet, but the foundation is being layed.

Again, congrats.

kellerman411 8 years, 10 months ago

I'm happy for Matt Tait. He's been grinding a long time waiting to write an article like this.

Bryce Landon 8 years, 10 months ago

James Sims was the man today. He has worked his ass off all these years seemingly for nothing, and its a shame he won't experience the joy of a bowl game this season; but his efforts were not in vain. And who knows? Maybe he'll find his way onto an NFL roster.

Len Shaffer 8 years, 10 months ago

Absolutely. There's no one I'm happier for than JS. I know he doesn't really fit the criteria, but I hope KU will give serious consideration to putting his name up on the ring of honor. To lead the team in rushing for four straight years is a remarkable accomplishment, and to have played as well as he has through all the adversity is a real testament to his strength of character.

David A. Smith 8 years, 10 months ago

Congrats Hawks! Well done! Knew you could do it! Sure was nice to see Sims break out, Heeney nearly score, and early adversity overcome. 1-0 in the playoffs! RCJH!

Randy Bombardier 8 years, 10 months ago

I think we've found our Qb. Good win fellas.

Jack Jones 8 years, 10 months ago

Only one game (but then, aren't they all?) ~ but what a 'one game' for the players, coaches, students and Jayhawks all. Well done, Jayhawks. Not just a win, but a dominating HOME win with significance way beyond the expectation.

Joe Ross 8 years, 10 months ago

"Every game is critical. Every snap is critical. Every opponent is a worthy opponent."
--Art Briles, Baylor head coach on why they have enjoyed success this season.

Kansas should post this in the locker room and adopt this mantra both on and off the field. Especially if they wish to establish a culture change and keep their momentum going.

Joe Ross 8 years, 10 months ago

Program Inventory/Checklist of Improvement:

  1. Stop the streak of games without a touchdown pass. (CHECK)
  2. Win a big 12 game. (CHECK)
  3. Beat Kansas State. (still on "to do" list this season).
  4. Finish .500/make a bowl game.
  5. Have a winning record/win a bowl game.
  6. Be competitive against power programs in Big 12 (OSU, OU, Texas, and now Baylor).
  7. Win against power programs in Big 12/Invite to BCS bowl.
  8. Be competitive with national power programs/Win a BCS bowl.
  9. Win against national power programs. Be competitive for a National Championship.

Charlie Weis can still finish 5-7 this year, and has more than a good chance of going at least 4-8. I would have been satisfied with that record if someone asked me at the beginning of the season, while hoping for more in '14/'15. But apart from just improvement in the record, Coach Weis has a chance to accomplish 3 goals in my program checklist. Projecting this out, if Weis accomplishes number 4 by next year, and number 5 the year after, I will consider his tenure here a success.

Len Shaffer 8 years, 10 months ago

Good list, Joe, but you left off one very important one: break the road losing streak. Let's hope that one can be checked off next week.

Joe Ross 8 years, 10 months ago

Damn straight and you are right to point it out!

W Keith Swinehart II 8 years, 10 months ago

Add to the list - 10. Fill the stadium with 50,000 screaming fans.

Joe Ross 8 years, 10 months ago

Agree, Keith. And it's probably appropriate at number 10 because it might be the hardest thing to do. I don't think I have ever in my life seen Memorial at capacity (someone back me up or debunk my statement). On the other hand, I have seen an Orange Bowl victory...and pretty convincing, it was.

Bryce Landon 8 years, 10 months ago

KU has been filled up beyond capacity many times. The largest crowd ever at Memorial Stadium was 52,530 for the 2009 season opener, Mangino's final year, when Kansas blasted Northern Colorado 52-3.

Joe Ross 8 years, 10 months ago

I stand corrected. Well, actually I'm sitting, so technically...

W Keith Swinehart II 8 years, 10 months ago

Add to the list - 10. Fill the stadium with 50,000 screaming fans on a regular basis.

Joe Ross 8 years, 10 months ago

This win was a long time coming, and most Kansas fans enjoyed it three times as much as other fans value a victory. So aesthetically, Kansas has 3 wins against conference opponents this season.

Aaron Paisley 8 years, 10 months ago

This win obviously doesn't mean that KU is a good team yet, but it is a sign of progress. The previous 4 games were against the top 4 teams in the Big 12 and KU was reasonably competitive in 2 of those games, but clearly not talented enough to compete. KU had 6-7 games going into this season that most people said KU could realistically win and not be a huge upset. South Dakota, Rice, LA Tech, TCU, Texas Tech, West Virginia, and Iowa St. were all considered games KU had a reasonable chance to win. Texas Tech was better than expected at the beginning of the year when KU played them so that made that game a little more unrealistic to win, but the other teams have pretty played to expectations and KU is currently 3-2 against those teams so far with the ISU game remaining. It's not the big huge steps people would like to see, but it is steps in the right direction none the less and next year, KU is returning 15+ starters and should be in a decent position to make a bowl game next year.

kellerman411 8 years, 10 months ago

Totally. Our defense will be good next year and our secondary will be down right nasty. We're losing a big piece in Sims but we're also bringing in a top notch back to replace him. Plus, that WR transfer will be eligible giving Cozart a nice target.

Billy Smith 8 years, 10 months ago

It was a great win indeed. I guess it would be "setting fire to the scoreboard" for us, considering how anemic our offense has been all year. I think they may be on to something here with pounding the rock. Though it is still hard to say how Cozart is as a passer. I understand the logic of limiting his throws due to the 35 mph wind, but that is still a question mark for me. Oh well, we got the conference monkey off our back and it feels good! Keep it rolling with Iowa State next week! RCJH

Erich Hartmann 8 years, 10 months ago

Great chance now that Sims gets 1,000yds this season, as he is over 900+ now...with 2 games to play. The OU/IowaState highlights seemed to "highlight" a porous Clone Im hoping Sims has a big day, and Cozart keeps them off balance.

Didnt start out that way, but Sims surpassed WVa's Charles Sims rather quickly in the game. That C.Sims (also from TX) is a good runner, but we got the better Sims.

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