4th Quarter Toughness Seals KU Win

In a game billed as the Jayhawks' biggest test to date, the defense found the right answers late.

The Jayhawk defense won the fourth quarter 7-0, making up the winning margin in Kansas's 35-28 victory in a shootout over the visiting Southern Mississippi Eagles.

On a day where both teams flexed their offensive muscles, the first score came quickly. Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing found wide receiver Kerry Meier deep, and Meier shook off a Southern Miss defender and outran a safety for a 62-yard touchdown on the Jayhawks fourth play.

Southern Miss responded quickly. Aided by a 49-yard screen pass to running back Damion Fletcher, the Eagles marched the ball down the field and scored when quarterback Austin Davis found tight end Jonathan Massey from the one-yard line.

The two teams then traded scores — the Jayhawk touchdown coming on a 20-yard Dezmon Briscoe run on a reverse and the Eagle score coming by way of a 22-yard pass from Davis to wide receiver DeAndre Brown — until Toben Opurum caught a 12-yard touchdown from Reesing to put the Jayhawks up 21-14 before halftime.

Opurum extended that lead to 28-14 early in the third quarter when he ran in from the two. But Southern Miss came back again. After completing a 49-yard pass to Brown, Davis scored on a 16-yard run. The Eagles equalized the score again on Massey's second touchdown catch from Davis, this one a four-yarder.

The Jayhawks took the lead right back less than two minutes later when Reesing found Meier for a 12-yard touchdown. That margin would stand up through the fourth quarter, as the Kansas defense stopped the Eagles on four fourth-quarter drives, holding the Eagles to 32 yards in the final stanza.

"It was the fourth quarter, and we had to turn it up a notch," said defensive end Jake Laptad, who sacked Davis on a key third down. "It comes down to conditioning … I think they were more tired at the end."

Reesing finished the game with more than 300 yards passing for the second consecutive week, connecting on 73 percent of his passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns against one interception. Opurum topped the 100-yard mark for the first time in his career, rushing for 109 yards and a touchdown. He added another 21 yards and a touchdown receiving. And Meier set a career high with 141 yards, spread over 10 catches. He had two touchdowns through the air.

Davis's numbers almost mirrored Reesing's. Davis completed 67 percent of his passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.

"He was really good," Laptad said. "He did a great job of getting rid of the ball quickly. I thought we would be able to get more pressure on him, but he was a tough player. He played well."

At the same time, the Jayhawks were able to contain star running back Damion Fletcher, holding him to 27 yards on 10 carries. He did have 70 yards receiving.

"(Containing him) was our number one goal," said Chris Harris after the game. "We wanted to make them one-dimensional."

Harris led the Jayhawks with 15 stops, with two coming behind the line. Ryan Murphy added an interception, while Laptad had the team's only sack.

The Jayhawks now have two weeks to prepare for Iowa State and the start of conference play. When asked about the team's performance so far, Kansas Coach Mark Mangino said he was pleased.

"I really feel good about our team in terms of attitude and fight they have in them, the competitive spirit that they have," Mangino said. "Today for three quarters on defense it didn't look like it, but you have to understand when the game was on the line, our kids fought for the ball on defense.

"We're far from a finished product. We have a lot of work to do," he said. "This off week will be very important. We have to get better in a lot of areas, but I like where we are right now and I like the direction of our ball club."

Scoring Summary:
Kansas — Kerry Meier 62 pass from Todd Reesing (Jacob Branstetter kick), 13:40 1Q
Southern Miss — Jonathan Massey 1 pass from Austin Davis (Justin Estes kick), 10:22 1Q
KU — Briscoe 20 run (Branstetter kick), 4:10 1Q
USM — DeAndre Brown 22 pass from Davis (Estes kick), 12:01 2Q
KU—Toben Opurum 12 pass from Reesing (Branstetter kick), 3:16 2Q
KU—Opurum 2 run (Branstetter kick), 7:19 3Q
USM — Davis 16 run (Estes kick), 6:15 3Q
USM — Massey 4 pass from Davis (Estes kick), 0:47 3Q
KU — Meier 12 pass from Reesing (Branstetter kick), 14:15 4Q

  • Quarterback Todd Reesing drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the game, and while Kansas Coach Mark Mangino declined to comment, Reesing didn't hesitate to give his take:
"It was a terrific call," Reesing said dryly. "I didn't know that you couldn't get up after being tackled and drop the ball on the ground. I'll make sure to hand the ball to the official next time so I don't get a penalty."
  • No distraction. From Mangino on down through the players, nobody cited this week's incident with the Kansas basketball team as a distraction.
"We knew we couldn't let it become a distraction," said linebacker Drew Dudley, "so we didn't."
  • A tale of two halves. The Kansas offense racked up a whopping 332 yards in the first half, as compared to the 101 yards the Jayhawks had in the second half. However, at the same time …
  • The defense saw a tale of two quarters. The Jayhawks allowed 157 yards and 14 points in the third quarter, then pitched a shutout while allowing just 32 yards in the fourth quarter. Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis made the biggest change in those numbers. In the third quarter, Davis was 10 of 13 for 127 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 24 yards in the quarter. In the fourth quarter, Davis was 4-13 for 25 yards and an interception. He ran for negative three yards.

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