James Sims entered this year on a mission. After a breakout junior season in 2012, Sims needed 1,360 yards to eclipse June Henley and become KU's all-time leading rusher.
That was Sims' goal, his dream.
"I've been told that is what I needed," Sims said before the season. "That's what I'm looking forward to this season is to break the record."
Sims, who began the year needing to average 113.3 yards per game (in 12 contests) to achieve the feat, averaged just 78 yards through KU's first five contests. He had only one 100-yard rushing game (109 yards against Rice in Week 2), and was held to just 28 yards on nine carries against Texas Tech on Oct. 5.
While the senior was still productive early this season, he certainly wasn't at his best, due in large part to an ineffective offensive line.
But the real James Sims showed Kansas fans and the college football nation what he's capable of on Saturday at Memorial Stadium against Oklahoma, rushing for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries during KU's 34-19 loss. He gained 85 of those yards during an explosive first quarter as KU ended the first 15 minutes with a 7-0 lead against the No. 18 Sooners. Backup Darrian Miller also gained 41 yards on three carries in that first quarter, including a long run of 38 yards.
"I felt very confident and very good," Sims said about that high-powered first quarter. "We were moving the ball on them and capitalizing like we were supposed to. That's a great start to what we wanted to and what we prepared for all week. To go out there in the first quarter was great. I had confidence we were going to win the game."
However, after a Sims' 11-yard touchdown run with 14:49 left in the second quarter gave KU a 13-0 lead, OU then outscored the Jayhawks 25-0 with over 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter. While Sims added another six-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter at the 10:15 mark to trim OU's lead to 25-19, the Sooners scored nine unanswered points to win by 15.
Despite OU's comeback after KU's strong 13-0 start, Sims said the Jayhawks were still upbeat in the second half.
"No one was down at all," he said. "We had confidence we were going to win the game. It just slipped away at the end."
KU's chances weren't helped when Matthew Wyman had his extra point blocked after Sims' TD run in the fourth quarter, as OU's Aaron Colvin scored on a pivotal PAT return, giving the Sooners a 27-19 lead. Oklahoma got the ball back and scored a TD on its next drive.
The Jayhawks were also hurt by an anemic passing game; Jake Heaps completed just five of 13 passes for 16 yards while being sacked three times.
On the bright side, KU's rushing game showed life with the Jayhawks gaining the most yards (185) since the season opener against South Dakota (280).
"I feel like this is a turning point for us," Sims said. "The offensive line was physical up front. That was the most (physical) people have seen. We'll just build off of this and just get better from an offensive line perspective."
"Give credit to the offensive line," Sims added about his big day. "They won the line of scrimmage. That was the plan the whole week just to win the line of scrimmage, and they went out there and did that."
While Sims' goal starting the year was to become KU's all-time leading rusher, his ultimate dream was to help lead KU to a bowl game. After the Jayhawks' loss to OU (their third-straight setback), Sims wasn't about to give up on that goal with KU now 2-4.
"It's just a little bump in the road," Sims said. "We were in the game for the first half and then the third quarter kind of got to us. But I feel we're right there. We're getting ready to turn the corner, and once we do, it's going to be hard to stop us."
Sims certainly "turned the corner" against OU, and could be unstoppable the rest of the season with a very outside chance of breaking Henley's record. He would now need to average 140.2 yards per game the final six contests, assuming KU doesn't go to a bowl.
Heaps raved over Sims' play versus the Sooners.
"(He was) great," Heaps said. "He's a fantastic football player. Give him an opportunity to make some plays and give him a hole, and he's going to make something happen with it. When you have a guy like that, it always helps out your offense and it's always great as a quarterback to be able to rely on a great running back like James."