LAWRENCE, Kan. — To combat 50-mph winds gusting across the Kansas plains, Charlie Weis opted to rely on his running game.
Not that the Jayhawks had much of a passing attack to fall back on, but for Saturday at least, one dimension was plenty for Kansas.
James Sims piled up 211 rushing yards—two large chunks of that coming on second-quarter runs of 62 and 68 yards—and the hapless Jayhawks walloped West Virginia 31-19 to end a 27-game Big 12 losing streak.
“It felt amazing looking up at the scoreboard and seeing us on top and them down,” said Sims, a senior who had suffered through a 1-31 conference record in his KU career before Saturday.
“Our whole preparation the whole week was to be physical up front. Give props to those guys up front.”
Props aside, Sims made his first long run primarily on individual effort, evading WVU defensive end in the backfield on what looked to be a negative play. Some 62 yards later, Sims was pushed out of bounds at the Mountaineers’ 10 by Karl Joseph.
“Will had his arms around him. He’s bear-hugging him. Should have been a TFL,” said West Virginia defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. “Got him wrapped up, but doesn’t finish the play. Guy breaks out and now he’s gone.”
That Sims run set up his own 3-yard score two plays later, putting Kansas ahead to stay 10-7 with 7:47 to go in the half.
“It’s like getting hit with a punch,” Patterson said.
Just 39 seconds before intermission came another, Sims delivered another haymaker when he popped free on a 68-yarder. Patterson thought his unit had the play defended perfectly, only to see Sims burst through the line untouched and blow past hobbling West Virginia safety Darwin Cook, whose day was done with a leg injury.
“They went unbalanced and we’ve got almost everybody on the defense over there,” Patterson said. “I don’t know what happened.”
Sims’ breakaway runs helped Kansas reel off 31 unanswered points and compile 315 yards rushing.
“I felt like those two run plays was what ended the game,” said West Virginia nose tackle Shaq Rowell. “Sims came out today—forget the offensive line—I felt like he was tired of losing and that guy got that ball and ran like a possessed man.”
With Sims working through a season-high 22 carries, Weis didn’t require much from true freshman quarterback Montell Cozart, who threw for 61 yards on 5-of-12 passing.
“We knew we were going to run the ball a bunch,” Weis said. “We knew it was going to be windy and that was going to affect the passion game for both teams. We kept giving the ball to James and he kept giving us yards.”
Sims later tacked on a 2-yard run for his third touchdown, all coming in the south end zone where Kansas students took down the goal post in the aftermath.
“It’s wonderful feeling,” he said.