LAWRENCE (AP) — Ohio’s Greg Windham played like a fifth-year senior rather than a quarterback making just his second career start, though Kansas certainly did everything it could to help him out.
Two fumbled punt returns. Inopportune penalties. An interception. A safety.
The result was a 37-21 victory for the Bobcats on Saturday that went a long way toward erasing the memory of a triple-overtime defeat to Texas State in their season opener.
“I’m proud of our guys the way they came back,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “I thought it showed our resolve. They practiced well this past week. I think the signs were there that they were going to have an opportunity to play well, and to play to our potential hopefully.”
Windham threw for 167 yards and a touchdown while running for 146 and another score. Dorian Brown added 122 yards rushing, Louie Zervos was 5-for-5 on field goals, and Papi White and Mason Morgan scored against a Kansas team coming off its first win in more than a year.
LaQuvionte Gonzalez had a 99-yard kickoff return for the Jayhawks (1-1), but he also muffed those two punt returns. Montell Cozart threw for 198 yards and hit Steven Sims Jr. for a pair of TDs, but the dual-threat quarterback also struggled to deal with constant pressure.
“Offensively we have to do a better job early in the game to help our defense out,” Kansas coach David Beaty said. “The defense, every time I looked up, they were out there.”
The Bobcats blitzed to a 25-0 lead and led 28-7 after a first half as lopsided as they come: They had a 359-21 edge in offense, 18 first downs to one, and controlled the ball for 22 minutes, 56 seconds.
“We just couldn’t get off the field,” Jayhawks safety Fish Smithson said. “It doesn’t matter how long we were out there, we still have to get stops.”
The Jayhawks still managed to make it interesting.
Cozart connected with Sims on a 74-yard touchdown pass on the second play out of the locker room, and then hit Sims from 22 yards out a few minutes later to trim a 28-7 halftime lead to 31-21.
But an Ohio defense that allowed 630 yards to Texas State held the Jayhawks to three straight punts, deflating a crowd that began to dwindle. And Windham showed the poise of a fifth-year senior rather than a quarterback making his second career start, scrambling for a crucial first down midway through the fourth quarter that kept the clock moving and the Kansas offense on the sideline.
“I feel like we have a run game,” Solich said, “and if you have a run game you have a chance.”
The outcome at Memorial Stadium was nothing new for Solich, who went 6-0 against the Jayhawks when he was with former Big 12 rival Nebraska. But it was all-too-familiar for Beaty, who hoped to build on a win over Rhode Island last week that ended the Jayhawks’ 15-game losing streak.
“We are still in that process of building this program,” he said. “We’ve talked to them until we’re blue in the face, one win doesn’t make you special. You have to go back to what got you there.”
Ohio had the ball for 43:38 while Kansas had it for 13:56, a massive disparity in time of possession. The Bobcats also went 6 for 7 in the red zone while the Jayhawks failed to drive inside the 20.
Cozart took a shot along the sideline late in the game, hurting his shoulder. Cozart said he could have returned to the game while Beaty said he was being cautious by turning to Ryan Willis. “I didn’t want to take a chance on it,” Beaty said, “because I saw the way he fell.”
Ohio: The Bobcats ran for 329 yards without top running back A.J. Ouellette, who hurt his foot the previous week. He was on crutches when the captains went on the field for the coin toss.
Kansas: The Jayhawks were 0 for 8 on third down, failed to pick up both fourth downs, which in turn kept their defense on the field far too long. They were ultimately gassed by the fourth quarter.
Kansas: Heads to Memphis on Saturday to face a team that beat the Jayhawks 55-23 a year ago.