Kansas runners grind up West Virginia's bowl aspirations

WEST VIRGINIA

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In the euphoric moments after Kansas knocked off West Virginia, 31-19, Saturday in Lawrence, Kan., a hometown crowd of 30,809 rushed the field, uprooted the goalposts and carried them away for a watery burial in Potter's Lake.

The comedy of the celebration was that the Jayhawks (3-7, 1-6 Big 12) had finally snapped their 27-game Big 12 losing streak, an exercise in futility spanning the past three seasons.

The defeat erased any hopes West Virginia (4-7, 2-6) had of earning bowl eligibility.

"I guess this would be an all-time low," coach Dana Holgorsen said.

A telling note is that the fans' parade to Potter's Lake, located .16 miles outside of the stadium, was shorter than the 315 rushing yards (.17 miles) the Jayhawks piled up against the Mountaineers defense.

"At the end of the day, we didn't stop them. Kansas came out and wanted it more than we did," redshirt senior nose tackle Shaq Rowell said. "If you come into somebody else's house and you're not ready to play, they're going to take it from you."

Jayhawks running back James Sims had a career day, rushing for 211 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries.

He had 167 yards by halftime, punctuated by backbreaking 62- and 68-yard runs to break the game open late in the first half, turning a 7-3 West Virginia lead into a 17-7 halftime deficit.

Those particular plays "dumbfounded" West Virginia defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, whose defense had been stout against the run all season.

"It's almost like getting hit with a punch -- in shock," Patterson said. "It's a game of intensity. When you don't have that intensity or play with that edge, big plays happen. We hadn't seen that happen to us all year long, and today it happens twice within seven minutes."

All told, the defense effectively shut down the rest of the Jayhawks offense, limiting freshman quarterback Montell Cozart to five completions for 61 yards and holding Kansas to 5 of 12 on third-down conversions.

"We did everything right but give up those 300 rushing yards," Rowell said.

But that's a hard number to overlook.

Holgorsen said his frustration was that after the offense started quickly, with a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, the defense that had propped up the team all season "went out there and just laid down."

"The game is won and lost up front 90 percent of the time," Holgorsen said, "and their offensive line whipped us."

The Mountaineers now enter their second off week with two weeks to prepare for the season finale at home -- the seniors' final game in blue and gold -- against Iowa State (1-9, 0-7 Big 12), another team searching for its first conference win.

"[Kansas] knew we were playing for a bowl bid, and they said, 'We're going to come out there and take their bowl bid away,' " Rowell said. "They're not going to a bowl game, and they spoiled our dreams too.

"That's what you live for as a player, to have something to play for. They had something to play for and took it away from us."

Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.


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