Sooners survive scare at Kansas

Trevor Pardula's punt is bloocked by OU's Matt Dimon, resulting in a safety

Trevor Pardula’s punt is blocked by OU’s Matt Dimon, resulting in a safety

LAWRENCE, Kan.-Halloween isn’t until October 31, but the Kansas Jayhawks threw a huge scare into the Oklahoma Sooners on a beautiful Fall afternoon inside Kansas’ Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

After OU’s first possession ended with a Jed Barnett punt, Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps engineered a 10-play, 70-yard touchdown drive, fueled in large part by senior halfback James Sims.  Sims rushed eight times for 63 yards to set up Jimmay Mundine’s one-yard touchdown catch from Heaps off of play-action on third and goal.  That was all the scoring in the opening quarter, as the Jayhawks piled up 136 yards of offense, compared to just 69 for the Sooners.

With just 11 seconds gone in the second quarter, Kansas extended their lead to 13-0, capped off by workhorse Sims’ 11-yard scoring run.  Kansas kicker Matthew Wyman’s extra point attempt banged off the left upright, and it wouldn’t be the last time that special teams played a role in the game.

The Sooners finally put points on the board in the quarter when quarterback Blake Bell, on third and 12, hit wide receiver Jaz Reynolds with a 16-yard scoring strike.  The OU drive was kept alive when Jayhawk Cassius Sendish was flagged for pass interference.  It was a costly penalty, as Kansas cornerback Dexter McDonald intercepted Bell’s third-down pass.  Following Reynolds’ touchdown grab, OU kicker Michael Hunnicutt’s extra point try was no good.

Following the OU touchdown, the Jayhawk offense was held to a three-and-out, and the punt team stepped onto the field deep in their own territory.  Trevor Pardula’s kick was blocked by OU’s Matt Dimon.  The ball squirted into the end zone, where Pardula kicked the ball out the back of the end zone, resulting in a safety and two more points for the Sooners.

Sooner receiver Sterling Shepard crosses the goal line after catching a pass from Lacoltan Bester.  The Sooners beat Kansas 34-19 Saturday

Sooner receiver Sterling Shepard crosses the goal line after catching a pass from Lacoltan Bester. The Sooners beat Kansas 34-19 Saturday

Still trailing 13-8 with just over four and a half minutes left in the half, Roy Finch returned the Kansas free kick to the Jayhawks 49-yard line.  That’s when Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel reached into his bag of tricks, calling a wide receiver reverse pass.  Bell took the snap, and handed the ball to Brennan Clay, who then pitched it to Lacoltan Bester.  Bester then lofted a perfect pass to Sterling Shepard, who had broken free and was streaking down the sideline.  The Sooners had scored 15 points in 2:41, and they closed out the first half scoring with a Hunnicutt 37-yard field goal with just 11 seconds left before halftime.  After a strong first quarter, the OU defense held Kansas to just 37 yards in the second quarter.

The Sooners tallied the only points in the third quarter, when Bell tossed a short pass to Shepard, who used a couple of nice cuts to make it into the end zone.

The final quarter provided a couple of wild moments.  First, Jed Barnett’s punt was blocked, setting Kansas up at the OU six-yard line, and James Sims carried the ball into the end zone from that distance, and suddenly it was 25-19.  However, the extra point was blocked by Sooner Jordan Wade, and Owasso product Aaron Colvin scooped up the ball and returned it all the way for two points for the Sooners.

The Sooners next possession was a time-consuming 75-yard, 11-play scoring drive that took over six minutes off the clock.  Damien Williams provided the final margin of victory for OU, scoring on a six-yard run.

The Sooners return to Norman on Saturday, October 26, when they host undefeated and tenth-ranked Texas Tech.  Kickoff is set for 2:30pm.