MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Shaq Rowell was sure he'd witnessed a winning performance by West Virginia's defense, that the nose guard and the rest of those Mountaineers had done enough to handle a Kansas team that was last in the Big 12 in passing offense, scoring offense and total offense.
The Jayhawks passed for 61 yards and completed only 5 of 12 passes. They punted seven times and were 5-for-15 on third down. For a WVU defense that had struggled with all of that in the past five games, that seemed significant.
"We did everything right," Rowell said, "but give up those 300 rushing yards."
Kansas, a rather one-dimensional team started a true freshman quarterback for the first time in his career and asked Montell Cozart to do almost nothing with his arm, ran the ball 54 times for 315 yards and four touchdowns in the 31-19 win. Two of those 54 carries were the longest of the season for the Jayhawks and were separated by just six snaps.
The five completed passes were the fewest in a win by an opponent since Syracuse ended an eight-game losing streak in the series with a 19-14 win at Mountaineer Field in 2010, the last season Bill Stewart was head coach. The 61 passing yards were the fewest by an opponent in a win since Penn State passed for 40 in 1989.
And as much as WVU likes to say it's stout against the run, what Kansas managed, which was significant and at times dominant, is just the third best total this season and the fourth-highest in the past 12 games.
Baylor ran for 495 yards, the most ever by an opponent, in October. Oklahoma gained 372 four weeks earlier. Syracuse had 395 in the Pinstripe Bowl in December, which was Keith Patterson's first game as the defensive coordinator.
The previous four 300-yard games against the Mountaineers happened between 1999 and 2005. There were none from 2006-11. Only five players have ever run for 200 yards against WVU. Only three did it between the first game in 1891 and the final game of the 2012 regular season. Syracuse's Prince-Tyson Gulley (217) and Kansas' James Sims (211) have done it in the past 12 games.
"Sims was great," Rowell said. "Forget the offensive line. I feel like he was tired of losing. He got the ball and ran like a possessed man."
Sims and the rest of the Jayhawks had been used to losing. They'd lost their past 27 Big 12 games. The last Big 12 win was three years and 10 days earlier and the last conference win against a team still in the Big 12 was 13 months and eight games before that.
Kansas had 14 first downs and 12 came on a running play.
"It really wasn't trouble for us," Patterson said, "except two plays."
But those two plays count and they were undeniably critical toward the outcome. In the second quarter, defensive end Will Clarke slipped into the backfield and had Sims 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Sims broke free and gained 62 yards, which at that moment was the team's longest run of the season.