Hill took the kick on the 1-yard line and went straight up the field, picking up blocks from Trace Clark and Desmond Roland, en route to a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 6:43 remaining to put the Cowboys back on top with what proved to be the winning score.
“I was surprised that they kicked it to him. I could see where they would do that. They tried it a kick earlier and he caught it and walked out of bounds,” said Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy. “He’s just really dangerous. He’s so fast that once he gets a head of steam there had better be somebody in his way. When he gets out there he just moves so fast, it’s just hard to bring him down.”
The 16th-ranked Cowboys, 5-1 overall and 3-0 in Big 12 play, have now won five in a row after their season-opening 37-31 loss to No. 1-ranked Florida State. They travel to Fort Worth to face ninth-ranked TCU next weekend. The Horned Frogs suffered a disappointing 61-58 loss to Baylor on Saturday.
Gundy’s team was a three-touchdown favorite over the Jayhawks, and the Cowboys appeared to have the game in control, taking a 20-7 lead into the locker room at halftime. But after scoring four times (two touchdowns and a pair of Ben Grogan field goals) while rolling up 215 total yards of offense in the first half, things changed in the second half.
The Cowboys led 3-0 on Grogan’s 43-yard field goal early, and moved ahead 10-7 when Desmond Roland went 33 yards untouched for a touchdown with 3:48 left in the first quarter. Another Grogan field goal – after an apparent touchdown was overturned when the replay showed that Austin Hays stepped out of bounds at the 7-yard line – and Daxx Garman’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Jhajuan Seales with 26 seconds remaining on the clock gave the Cowboys what many assumed would be an insurmountable 20-7 lead.
But someone forgot to tell the Jayhawks, especially their defense. The KU defense was impressive in the second half, allowing the Cowboys only 55 yards in the final 30 minutes of play.
KU pulled within 20-10 on Wyman’s 21-yard field goal. The Jayhawks then made it 20-17 on Corey Avery’s 23-yard scoring run on the third play of the fourth quarter. On their next possession, the Jayhawks put together their longest drive of the season – 14 plays covering 72 yards – to tie the game on Wyman’s 35-yard field goal.
The Jayhawks had the momentum and the Cowboys were struggling to move the ball on offense. But Hill saved the day with his kickoff return for a touchdown, his second of the season.
Obviously, Tyreek again,” Gundy said on the post-game radio broadcast. “We went back to a different return and it worked for us, and gave us a chance to score when we couldn’t move the ball on offense.”
The Cowboys offense was dismal in the second half. Here’s a look at each of the second-half possessions:
1, 9 plays, 33 yards, ended with an interception
2, 4 plays, 2 yards, punt
3, 1 play, -10 yards, fumble
4, 7 plays, 16 yards, punt
5, 4 plays, 11 yards, punt
6, 6 plays, 19 yards, punt
7, 2 plays with OSU kneeling on ball to end game
“We’ve got a long ways to go. We’re still very, very average on offense,” Gundy said. “We may have averaged four yards a carry running the ball (it was actually 3.1 yards). We don’t run the ball well enough.
“I thought the quarterback (Garman) was very, very average today, (and) didn’t play very well. Blocking was probably below average, we dropped a couple of passes, so offensively we were not good.
“Defensively, we were good for times and then in the third quarter we started to miss some tackles and gave them a few big plays. But the defense gets put in a difficult situation because the offense isn’t on the field long enough, so they hard their backs against the wall a little bit and I think they get a little bit fatigued.
“Defensively we’re kind of holding our own. We’ll see in the next few weeks when we start to play some offenses that are really talented and have been scoring lots of people. It’ll be interesting to see how our players compete.”
Garman was 17 of 31 passing for 161 yards but turned the ball over twice (an interception and a fumble). Roland rushed for 87 yards on 21 carries, while Rennie Childs added 31 rushing yards. Hill finished with 170 all-purpose yards (99 kick returns, 52 receiving yards on four catches, and 19 punt returns).
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