It was a similar story for the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday afternoon. The offense showed occasional promise, and the defense did its job. But turnovers and frustrating moments added up, and for the sixth straight time, Kansas left the football field on the losing end.
Despite a close first half, the Oklahoma State Cowboys pulled away late to ultimately defeat Kansas, 44-20.
Two hours before kickoff, David Beaty announced that Montell Cozart would start at quarterback for the first time since September 29. Fans were skeptical, as the weakness of the Oklahoma State defense was its pass defense. Some argued that Ryan Willis was better suited to throw downfield against a vulnerable defense, but Cozart answered his critics early on Saturday.
In its homecoming “limestone” uniforms, Kansas came out swinging and opened the afternoon with energy. Oklahoma State drove into KU territory, but Fish Smithson strip-sacked quarterback Mason Rudolph to give Kansas possession. On the next play, Cozart fired a 68-yard touchdown bomb to LaQuvionte Gonzalez, giving the Jayhawks a 7-0 lead.
It was extremely refreshing to see David Beaty open the playbook a bit. In recent weeks, Beaty’s conservative approach has turned off some fans, but the aggressiveness in calling a home run play right after forcing a turnover worked in a big way.
Oklahoma State tied it up on a one-yard burst from Chris Carson on the next drive, but Cozart led his Jayhawks down the field on a 10-play, 63 yard drive to answer with a field goal. Later in the second quarter, a bad Kansas punt gave Oklahoma State possession at the KU 27, but the defense held the Cowboys to three points. The Jayhawks continued the field goal trend by kicking another on their next drive, giving them a 13-10 lead. Right before halftime, Justice Hill gave the Cowboys their first lead of the day with a touchdown run. At the half, Oklahoma State led, 17-13.
Despite the fact that they were trailing, the Jayhawks had to be proud about the way they played in the first half. The key to the half was committing zero turnovers; Kansas entered Saturday leading the nation in turnovers with 22. Unfortunately, it took just three plays after halftime for the giveaway woes to return.
Ke’aun Kinner fumbled inside his own territory, and Oklahoma State responded with a 15-yard touchdown from Rudolf to Carson. With the game hovering on the edge of getting busted open, Cozart engineered his finest drive of the day, going 75 yards on 10 plays, including two third-down conversions. The drive ended with a six-yard touchdown run from Taylor Martin, bringing KU back within four, 24-20.
After forcing a punt, the Jayhawks looked poised to regain the lead. But after 40 minutes of sharp play, the Cozart of old returned on a horrific, hit-as-he-threw interception right to an Oklahoma State lineman. The pick was returned to the one, and Rennie Childs scored on the next play to give the Cowboys another 11-point advantage.
That’s when the wheels fell off. Cozart was picked again on the next Kansas drive, though it wasn’t his fault as the ball was deflected off of Gonzalez’ hands. This led to an Oklahoma State field goal, swelling the deficit to 14 as the third quarter expired.
The Jayhawks didn’t give up, as Kinner eclipsed 100 yards by busting a 54-yard scamper to get Kansas back into the red zone. However, the drive ended with a whimper after Cozart’s fourth down throw fell incomplete. Later on, the Cowboys added a field goal and a third touchdown by Carson to blow the game open.
Kansas has turned the ball over 25 times in seven games this year. No stat better sums up the struggles of this team. It hasn’t won a turnover battle since the season opener, and that was against a terrible FCS team.
The Jayhawks are 1-6. They’re coming up on their two-year anniversary of their last conference win, which was November 8, 2014. Up next for Kansas: at Oklahoma next Saturday at 6:00 pm. Yikes.
- Cozart: 24/40, 250 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT. The 40 pass attempts are a career-high. He also added 26 yards on five scrambles. He will likely start at QB next week after Saturday’s strong performance.
- Kinner: 14 rushes for 145 yards. Martin added 11 carries for 32 yards and a score.
- Gonzalez: six catches, 106 yards, and a touchdown. Steven Sims Jr. led KU with nine catches for 90 yards.
- The Jayhawks had 450 yards of offense, nearly matched OSU on third down (KU was 5-14, OSU was 5-13), but the turnovers hurt.
- Oklahoma State gashed Kansas for 482 yards. The defense played well when it needed to get stops, though, as the Cowboys scored touchdowns on just four of their seven red-zone opportunities.
- Justice Hill paced the Cowboys with 162 rushing yards on 22 carries. Chris Carson scored three times.
- Kansas’ next two games are road tilts at Oklahoma and West Virginia, both of which are ranked in the top 20. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.