The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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November 17, 2013

Home for the holidays

WVU’s 11-year bowl streak snapped along with KU’s 27-game Big 12 losing skid in Jayhawks 31-19 victory

LAWRENCE, Kan. — As far as Dana Holgorsen is concerned, West Virginia’s 31-19 loss to Kansas on Saturday is a good reminder of what he’s been telling his players since they switched conferences two years ago.

“I’ve warned them — this is different from the Big East,” said the Mountaineers coach. “You can’t show up and be average.”

Losing to a Big 12 bottom feeder which had lost 27 consecutive conference games means the Mountaineers (4-7, 2-6) will not be going to a bowl game.

“Our team’s not good enough to where we can show up and play average and beat anybody,” Holgorsen said. “That’s obviously what happened today.”

James Sims rushed for a career-best 211 yards and three touchdowns as the Jayhawks (3-7, 1-6 Big 12) won their first conference game since besting Colorado on Nov. 6, 2010.

“Their O-line whipped us,” Holgorsen said. “We didn’t tackle very good.”

Charles Sims rushed for 99 yards for West Virginia and Paul Millard, making his third start, was 23 of 42 for two touchdowns and two very damaging interceptions.

“We were moving the ball fine in the first half, we just couldn’t finish our drives,” Millard said.

Thousands of fans poured out their pent-up frustrations by storming the field, embracing gleeful players and coaches and tearing down the south goalpost. Right in the middle of the throng, laughing and hugging as much as anybody, was second-year head coach Charlie Weis.

“My enjoyment doesn’t come from me,” Weis said after his fourth victory in almost two full seasons. “I enjoy watching (the players) have fun. I do enjoy watching the smiles on everyone’s faces. My true enjoyment is watching everyone else be happy. And you want to know something? That’s pretty nice.”

It was not a big crowd that braved winds gusting near 50 MPH to see the Jayhawks. Attendance has been spotty while Kansas fired two coaches and plunged into deep mediocrity after winning the 2008 Orange Bowl. Weis admitted he was “a little surprised” to see so many people run onto the field.

“I turned around and all of them were out there,” he said. “Actually, it was kind of nice. It was kind of nice.”

Sims broke runs of 62 and 68 yards while Kansas recorded just its second Big 12 win in 40 games and ended any bowl hopes for the Mountaineers “I was planning on going to a bowl game,” said coach Dana Holgorsen. “We’ve got to evaluate where we’re at. We’ve got to continue program development.”

West Virginia took a 7-0 lead on its first possession, a long drive against the wind. But the Mountaineers were unable to generate anything more until two meaningless touchdowns with less than 5 minutes to play.

The Jayhawks, who came into the game 117th in the NCAA in total offense and 116th in scoring, rushed for 315 yards against a Mountaineer unit ranked No. 100 in total defense.

With the Jayhawks trailing 7-3 midway through the second period, Sims broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and fled 62 yards down the sideline to the 10. A minute later, he went over from the 3. Then with 28 seconds left in the first half, the 6-0, 200-pound senior bolted through a big hole and went 68 yards virtually untouched, giving him 14 100-yard rushing days, No 2 on the school’s all-time charts.

“I looked up at the Jumbotron and could see there wasn’t anybody behind me,” he said with a grin.

When Sims powered his way into the end zone from three yards out to make it 24-7 following a West Virginia turnover in the third period, it was Kansas’ biggest lead over an FBS opponent since mounting a 21-point advantage against Baylor in 2011.

On a first down from the Kansas 30, Millard fired the ball right into the arms of Ben Goodman standing near the line of scrimmage. Goodman rambled 54 yards until Millard pushed him out at the 14.

“I was reading the quarterback and I put my hands up and all of a sudden I had the ball,” said Goodman. “I was trying to run as fast as I could, which I guess wasn’t very fast because the quarterback caught me.”

After Montell Cozart went around right end for 7 yards, Sims scored his third TD. Then Ben Heeney intercepted Millard’s pass in the fourth quarter and returned it 28 yards to the 1, setting up Brandon Bourbon’s touchdown plunge.

The Mountaineers, who were making their first trip to Lawrence, drove 75 yards with their first possession and scored on Charles Sims’ 12-yard catch-and-run from Millard. Millard threw a 3-yard touchdown to Kevin White with less than 5 minutes to play. With 28 seconds left, Charles Sims scored on a 6-yard run for the Mountaineers.

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