In the spring and summer of 2012, a few months after Charlie Weis was hired as head coach at Kansas, the team would practice situations and one of them was the walk off field goal to win a game. Footage would surface online and some would poke fun and make jokes, especially when the team went on to finish 1-11 that year.
On Saturday against Louisiana Tech, the Jayhawks finally got to live out the scenario, as walk on kicker Matthew Wyman, who a year ago was watching from the student section, drilled a 52 yard field goal as time expired to give Kansas a miraculous 13-10 victory.
The win helped Kansas (2-1) double its win total from a year ago, but how they got there took grit, determination and a lot of luck. Regardless, the drama could be a turning point for the program under Weis, as they head into their bye week before opening Big 12 play at home against Texas Tech on October 5th.
"The couple of turnovers late gave us a chance. We bounced back and tied it. Then we went for a play that we practice almost every day in practice and Wyman goes on to win it with his field goal," Weis said.
For 58 minutes, Kansas was going through its fair share of adversity and when Bulldogs running back Kenneth Dixon rushed for a first down inside the Kansas 10 yard line, LA Tech was looking at first and goal and under two minutes to play, it looked as if they would run the clock down and kick a game winning field goal of their own and KU would suffer an unthinkable home loss to a team that was a double digit underdog.
But, as Dixon was fighting for more yards and maybe a game winning touchdown, a series of hard Kansas hits forced the back to lose the ball and the Jayhawks' Keon Stowers recovered at the five. Suddenly, Kansas had life with 1:33 to play.
From there, the Kansas offense caught some fire, albeit slowly. First, running back James Sims rushed for 12 yards to the Kansas 17 and suddenly when Weis said afterwards that they would just play for overtime, the strategy changed and KU would try to play for the win.
"It was incredible that we were able to battle through adversity the whole game. Our offense kept battling and our defense kept battling and I think it shows our team's character. It shows the strength of our team and having chemistry with one another," quarterback Jake Heaps said. Sims would rush for five more. Then, Heaps kept for six and a first down. On the next play, Heaps hit receiver Josh Ford eight and when Heaps found Pierson on a seam route for 29 yards to the Bulldogs 35, the Jayhawks had a chance to win a game that minutes earlier looked like a sure loss.
The rest was a dramatic reverse and for Wyman, a dream come true. A year ago, Wyman tried out when the team held open tryouts for students. On Saturday, he got the chance to play the role of hero.
"It's a lot to take in, but I always have had confidence in myself that one day I'd be kicking out there," Wyman said.
The game was one that was controlled throughout by the visiting Bulldogs. Throughout, they led, including a 7-3 lead at halftime and 10-3 heading into the final quarter. They also outgained Kansas in all categories, including rushing yards, where KU was held under 100 yards on the ground until their final possession.
In the fourth quarter, Kansas benefited from a second turnover, earlier in the period, when Louisiana Tech quarterback Ryan Higgins fumbled the ball out of the front corner of the end zone as he was about to go in and give them a two touchdown lead. Dixon's fumble was just an added bonus that saved the day for the Jayhawks.
The win was somewhat miraculous, but desperately needed for a team that for once had the chance to just be happy and enjoy themselves. For, on this Saturday, Kansas' players, many of whom have only known losing.
"It was unreal," linebacker Ben Heeney said. "I literally went up to every single person on the team and gave them a handshake and a hug and it was like that throughout the whole locker room."