LAWRENCE (AP) — The sparse section of Kansas students spilled over the railing, celebrating alongside players in a happy pileup near midfield. Then they headed to the goalposts in the south end zone, tore them down and carried them up the hill from Memorial Stadium.
All for a victory over Iowa State, a team that’s won two games and none in the Big 12.
Michael Cummings threw for 278 yards and had two touchdowns, Corey Avery ran for 103 yards and another score and the long-downtrodden Jayhawks handled the Cyclones 34-14 on Saturday, giving them just their second conference win in the past four years.
“Honestly, it’s the greatest feeling in my life as far as this coaching thing goes,” said interim coach Clint Bowen, who was doused in ice water as the game clock approached zero.
Tony Pierson added 101 yards rushing and a touchdown, and Nigel King had 101 yards receiving as the Jayhawks (3-6, 1-5) raced out to a 24-0 lead in the battle for the Big 12 basement.
Iowa State put together a pair of touchdown drives to make the game interesting, but the Jayhawks answered with inspired play by their defense and just enough offense.
The victory ended the Jayhawks’ four-game losing streak to Iowa State (2-7, 0-6), and may go a long way toward helping Bowen earn the full-time job. He’s already matched the number of conference wins that Charlie Weis and Turner Gill managed before getting fired.
“I’ve had tremendous help along the way,” Bowen said. “There are so many people in this program that bend over backward. It makes it a pleasure to come to work every day.”
It was a discouraging return to Lawrence for Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, who led the Jayhawks to some of their greatest years. Two years after coaching them to a 12-1 mark and a victory in the Orange Bowl, he was fired amid accusations that he mistreated players.
It was also discouraging for coach Paul Rhoads, who has won five games the past two seasons.
“They started fast, we started reverse,” he said. “We did not start the game in the right frame of mind that you need to play D-1 football with. It’s a fast game, it’s a physical game, it’s a violent game. It’s a game that demands that you do things right.”
Grant Rohach, starting in place of injured quarterback Sam B. Richardson, was 25 of 50 for 275 yards for the Cyclones. He also threw two touchdown passes, but both happened after Iowa State went three-and-out on four of its first five drives and the Jayhawks had taken a 24-0 lead.
The Cyclones, losers of five of their last six, were stuffed for minus-3 yards total offense in the first quarter, and still had just 89 yards in trailing 24-7 at halftime.
Iowa State showed some moxie in taking the first possession of the second half 75 yards in just four plays, Rohach hitting D’Vario Montgomery from 35 yards to cap the drive. But any of the momentum they built evaporated when Kansas went 80 yards the other way.
The Jayhawks converted third-and-19 with a 42-yard pass from Cummings to King, and the junior quarterback took a sneak over the left side for a matching touchdown and 31-14 advantage.
Rohach was sacked and fumbled on Iowa State’s next possession. Kansas recovered and, a few minutes later, Matthew Wyman drilled his second field goal of the game to extend the lead.
By that point, the already sparse crowd was beginning to thin out.
“We just have to play better as a whole,” Rohach said. “We just need to improve in all areas. Our chances of a bowl game are gone, but we have to play for pride now.”
Kansas finished with more than 500 yards of offense in its second game with wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau sharing offensive coordinator duties with John Reagan. Kiesau called plays from the sideline, using the up-tempo approach that he learned from Steve Sarkisian at Washington.
The Jayhawks dominated in time of possession, holding the ball for nearly 38 minutes. They also converted 11 of 20 third downs, each time deflating the Iowa State sideline.
Just as deflating was the way the Cyclones kept getting repelled at the goal line in the fourth quarter. Twice, Rohach threw incomplete in the end zone on fourth down, and he was picked off by JaCorey Shepherd in the end zone with 2:29 left in the game.
“We’re not losers or quitters,” Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney said. “We’re not going to quit.”