LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy freely admits that his team doesn’t run the ball very well.
It doesn’t have much experience.
The offensive line doesn’t always protect well and the defense doesn’t have a whole lot of depth.
Then again, here’s something else the No. 16 Cowboys don’t have: a Big 12 loss.
They can thank Tyreek Hill for that.
The junior college transfer returned a kickoff 99 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown, sending the Cowboys past upset-minded Kansas 27-20 on Saturday.
“We’ve got a ways to go,” Gundy said afterward. “It feels like I have a crystal ball or something. I said a month ago it’s going to be a battle every game we’re in.”
Daxx Garman threw for 161 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Cowboys (5-1, 3-0), while Desmond Roland ran for 87 yards and another score. But their offense otherwise struggled against a Kansas defense that hasn’t always been that stingy.
“You never want to go to a place and lose,” said Cowboys wide receiver Jhajuan Seales, who caught a touchdown pass. “Kansas had a great scheme and came out and played well.”
Michael Cummings threw for 288 yards and ran for a touchdown in his first start for Kansas (2-4, 0-3) since 2012. Corey Avery also ran for a score for the Jayhawks.
Oklahoma State led 20-7 at halftime, but the Jayhawks rallied to tie the game 20-all late in the fourth quarter in their first home game under interim coach Clint Bowen.
It didn’t last that way for long. Hill, whom the Jayhawks had avoided kicking to all game, took the kickoff up the Kansas sideline for the go-ahead touchdown. The junior college transfer also returned a kickoff 97 yards in the Cowboys’ win over Iowa State last week.
Cummings was picked off with 53 seconds left to seal the outcome.
“We were trying to get it done,” said Cummings, who replaced sophomore starter Montell Cozart last week against West Virginia and got the nod this week.
Playing its first true road game, Oklahoma State won its sixth straight at Memorial Stadium. It was also its fifth straight Big 12 road win.
The Cowboys got off to a slow start, though, a problem that has plagued them throughout the season. They had to settle for Ben Grogan’s 43-yard field goal on their opening drive, and then allowed the Jayhawks to drive 81 yards the other way for a touchdown.
The big play was a 51-yard pass from Cummings to Nick Harwell down the sideline.
Oklahoma State answered with a 33-yard touchdown run by Roland, but the Cowboys kept squandering chances to put the game away. They settled for another field goal, went three-and-out on their next drive, and then kicked yet another field goal.
It wasn’t until a shanked punt by Trevor Pardula with just over a minute left in the half gave the Cowboys prime field position that they threatened to put the game away. Five plays later, Seales hauled in a short touchdown pass for a 20-7 lead.
Unlike so many times the past few years, Kansas refused to fold.
Cassius Sendish picked off a pass to foil Oklahoma State’s first drive of the second half.
Moments later, Tevin Shaw jumped on a fumble that everybody in orange seemed to think was an incomplete pass and returned it to the Cowboys 15, setting up a short field goal.
It remained 20-10 until early in the fourth quarter, when Kansas needed four plays to go 83 yards. Avery capped the drive with a 23-yard touchdown run, energizing a paltry crowd of roughly 15,000 — the combination of Late Night in the Phog the previous night, fall break for students and the Royals-Orioles playoff game did a number on attendance.
Kansas quickly forced a punt, and then went 72 yards, converting a key fourth-and-2 along the way. But when Bowen was faced with going for it on fourth-and-inches at the Cowboys 18 with 6:55 left, he elected to kick a 35-yard field goal to tie the game instead.
“We just felt like we had to tie the game,” Bowen said.
It stayed tied for as long as it took Hill to return the kickoff 99 yards.
“Big plays change games,” Oklahoma State wide receiver David Glidden said. “We were fortunate that the big play happened for us.”
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