Failing to strike on the opportunities handed to it in the first half, the Kansas football team couldn’t keep up with Oklahoma in the long run as it dropped its fourth game of 2019, 45-20.
To begin the afternoon, it was the weather making an impact in Lawrence. With thunder and lightning in the area, the decision was made to postpone action for 30 minutes. As the game resumed at 11:30 a.m., the Jayhawks’ plan of attack became evident on the first possession of the game.
Despite running six plays and netting just 14 yards, the offense burned three minutes and 11 seconds off the clock. By draining time, the goal was to keep the ball out of the hands of senior quarterback Jalen Hurts and the sixth-best offense in the nation for as long as they could.
"Time of possession is critical," coach Les Miles said. "With an offensive team that you're playing, you have to limit their possessions and time with the ball. And we did that, to a certain extent."
Eventually punting the ball to the Sooners empty-handed, it was the Kansas defense getting its first opportunity to showcase the new schemes implemented earlier in the week. Flustering Hurts on the drive and nearly coming away with an interception on third down, the Jayhawks trotted off the field with no damage done.
On the ensuing offensive possession for Kansas, things looked bleak from the start. Backed up to their own two-yard line, the Jayhawks committed two consecutive false start penalties to push them closer to the goal line. Snapping the ball inside its own one, the offense suddenly found the weak spots in the Sooners’ defense.
"It didn't look too good at first," junior wide receiver Stephon Robinson Jr. said. "That was probably the longest drive I had in my career playing football."
Headlined by a 24-yard run from sophomore running back Pooka Williams Jr. and two double-digit yard receptions from Robinson Jr., the Jayhawks pushed their way into Oklahoma territory. Then on first down from the 22-yard line, Stanley floated a pass to senior wideout Daylon Charlot, who was tiptoeing the sideline in tight coverage.
Snagging it out of the air with the defender on his heels, the Alabama transfer kept his right foot in bounds for the score. The 7-0 deficit for the Sooners was the first time they’ve trailed all season and the first score they had given up in the first quarter. The Big 12 front-runner had previously outscored its opponents 55-0 in the first quarter.
But as top-ranked programs do, Oklahoma answered back in a flash on a six-play, 77-yard drive. It was capped off by a two-yard rush from junior running back Trey Sermon. Following the momentum shift back in favor of the visitors, Kansas looked to respond with another score of its own.
For the most part, that seemed like another possibility. Using Williams Jr. as the workhorse, carrying the ball five times for 34 yards on the drive, the Jayhawks marched their way down to Oklahoma 41.
Facing a pivotal 4th and 2, coach Les Miles understood the odds and gambled in going for it.Electing to pass, Stanley whipped a three-yard strike to senior tight end James Sosinski, who had it bounce right off his hands and onto the turf below him.
"I think this is a team that will learn to catch fourth downs," Miles said. "It's fourth down. It's a little bit more of a pressure situation."
Turning it over on downs, Kansas was immediately gifted a second chance to redeem itself from the failed conversion. As Hurts eyed a receiver on a screen pass, senior safety Mike Lee jumped the route. With nothing but green in front of him, Lee, like Sosinski, dropped the ball. It should be noted that Lee was wearing a cast on his right hand for today's game.
As it came to be, the mulligan given to the Sooners was all they needed. The Oklahoma offense pounded the ball down the field and into the end zone on a one-yard blast from the former Alabama quarterback less than three minutes later.
Before the half concluded, the Sooners pushed their lead to double-digits on a 10-yard catch and run from junior wide receiver CeeDee Lamb.
In the second half, it was all Oklahoma. Outscoring Kansas 24-13 and out-gaining them 332-184, the Sooners bested the Jayhawks in the final two quarters. For Hurts, he contributed four scores, giving him 21 total on the season.
On the Kansas side, the bright spots came from Williams Jr., who tallied a season-high 144 rushing yards, and Robinson Jr., who hauled in five catches for 131 yards and two scores.
Next weekend, the Jayhawks have a bye. After that, they will travel to Austin, Texas, for a game under the lights with Texas on Oct. 19. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.