LAWRENCE — James Sims rushed for 211 yards and three touchdowns and Kansas snapped a 27-game Big 12 losing streak Saturday with a 31-19 victory over West Virginia.
Thousands of fans stormed onto the field embracing players and coaches and eventually tearing down the south goalpost.
Sims, who recorded a career-high on 22 carries, broke runs of 62 and 68 yards while Kansas (3-7, 1-6 Big 12) ended a Big 12 drought that had lasted more than three years. Winds gusting near 50 MPH kept plastic bags and autumn leaves tumbling across the field as the sparse crowd witnessed Kansas' first conference victory since a come-from-behind win over Colorado on Nov. 6, 2010.
It was just the second Big 12 win in 40 games for the Jayhawks, who had fired two coaches and plunged back into deep mediocrity after winning the 2008 Orange Bowl.
West Virginia (4-7, 2-6), which wasn't even a Big 12 member when Kansas notched its previous conference win, took a 7-0 lead on its first possession, a long drive against the wind. But the Mountaineers were unable to generate anything more until two meaningless touchdowns with less than 5 minutes to play.
The Jayhawks, who came into the game 117th in the NCAA in total offense and 116th in scoring, rushed for 315 yards against a Mountaineer unit ranked No. 100 in total defense.
With the Jayhawks trailing 7-3 midway through the second period, Sims broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and fled 62 yards down the sideline to the 10. A minute later, he went over from the 3. Then with 28 seconds left in the first half, the 6-0, 200-pound senior bolted through a big hole and went 68 yards virtually untouched, giving him 14 100-yard rushing days, No 2 on the school's all-time charts. At 17-7, the Jayhawks had their first halftime lead since the season opener.
When Sims powered his way into the end zone from three yards out to make it 24-7 following a West Virginia turnover in the third period, it was Kansas' biggest lead over an FBS opponent since mounting a 21-point advantage against Baylor in 2011.
Paul Millard was for 23 for 42 for 242 yards and two touchdowns in his third start for the Mountaineers but also threw two disastrous interceptions.
On a first down from the Kansas 30, he fired the ball right into the arms of Ben Goodman standing near the line of scrimmage. Goodman rambled 54 yards until Millard pushed him out at the 14. After Montell Cozart went around right end for 7 yards, Sims scored his third TD. Then Ben Heeney intercepted Millard's pass in the fourth quarter and returned it 28 yards to the 1, setting up Brandon Bourbon's touchdown plunge.
The Mountaineers, who were making their first trip to Lawrence, drove 75 yards with their first possession and scored on Charles Sims' 12-yard catch-and-run from Millard. Millard threw a 3-yard touchdown to Kevin White with less than 5 minutes to play. With 28 seconds left, Charles Sims scored on a 6-yard run for the Mountaineers.
Big 12 Conference
Kansas 31, West Virginia 19
West Virginia 7 0 0 12 — 19
Kansas 3 14 7 7 — 31
WVU—Sims 12 pass from Millard (Lambert kick), 12:08.
KU—FG Doherty 25, 7:16.
KU—Sims 3 run (Doherty kick), 6:12.
KU—Sims 68 run (Doherty kick), :28.
KU—Sims 2 run (Doherty kick), 10:11.
KU—Bourbon 1 run (Doherty kick), 6:24.
WVU—K.White 3 pass from Millard (pass failed), 4:54.
WVU—Sims 6 run (pass failed), :28.
First downs 20 14
Rushes-yards 32-144 54-315
Passing 242 61
Comp-Att-Int 23-42-2 5-12-0
Return Yards (-15) 121
Punts-Avg. 8-44.6 7-33.9
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 6-47 9-90
Time of Possession 28:57 31:03
RUSHING—West Virginia, Sims 16-99, Smallwood 7-33, D.Smith 4-12, Thompson 1-6, Davis 1-2, Millard 3-(minus 8). Kansas, Sims 22-211, Cozart 13-60, Bourbon 12-48, Team 1-0, Pierson 6-(minus 4).
PASSING—West Virginia, Millard 23-42-2-242. Kansas, Cozart 5-12-0-61.
RECEIVING—West Virginia, Shorts 6-40, Alford 3-76, Davis 3-20, Thompson 3-14, K.White 3-9, Smallwood 2-42, Sims 2-29, Mathis 1-12. Kansas, Matthews 2-13, Turzilli 1-19, McCay 1-17, Pierson 1-12.