In a game billed as the Jayhawks' biggest test to date, the defense found the right answers late.
'Hawks Catch Hard-Fought Win Over USM
Reesing completed 30-of-41 passes against the Golden Eagles, including touchdowns to two different receivers. His 331 yards in the air marked his eighth-straight game with 200 or more passing yards and his 15th career 300-yard passing game.
The Jayhawks got off to an ideal start when Reesing connected with Meier for a 62-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the contest. After three-consecutive passes to begin the game's opening drive, Reesing found Meier open in the middle of field and the senior wide receiver did the rest, running away from his defender for his second touchdown of the season.
Southern Mississippi wasted no time evening the score, piecing together a seven-play, 68-yard drive to tie the game at seven. The key play for the Golden Eagles was a 49-yard screen pass from sophomore quarterback Austin Davis to senior running back Damion Fletcher that placed the ball at the Kansas seven-yard line. Four plays later, Davis found junior tight end Jonathan Massey for a one-yard score.
Kansas jumped back ahead 14-7 on the ensuing drive when junior Dezmon Briscoe capped a 12-play, 74-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown run on a reverse for his first career rushing touchdown.
The teams exchanged punts to begin the second quarter before Southern Mississippi embarked on a 91-yard drive to even the score at 14. The Golden Eagles needed only seven plays to march down the field, and Davis threw his second touchdown of the game to cap it, finding wide receiver DeAndre Brown for a 22-yard score.
After driving into Golden Eagle territory on the following drive, penalties forced the Jayhawks to punt. Southern Miss running back Tracey Lampley took Alonso Rojas' punt 59-yards before senior safety Darrell Stuckey brought him down at the Kansas 36-yard line. But four plays later, Stuckey forced Davis to fumble and senior cornerback Justin Thornton recovered the loose ball.
Kansas then took the ball 79 yards in just under five minutes with Reesing finding freshman running back Toben Opurum for a 12-yard touchdown pass to put the home team up 21-14 and end the first-half scoring. Reesing passed former Texas quarterback Vince Young for seventh on the All-time Big 12 total yards list during the first half.
Opurum, the first KU freshman to rush for more than 100 yards since Clark Green did it twice in 2002, finished with 109 yards on the ground on 28 carries.
The Golden Eagles received the ball to start the second half, but the Jayhawk defense forced a punt. Kansas scored on the ensuing possession to give it a 28-14 lead. The Jayhawks drove 70 yards in 12 plays with Opurum scoring on a one-yard touchdown run, his second touchdown of the day.
But, like in the first half, Southern Mississippi answered with a long scoring drive of its own. The Golden Eagles needed only four plays to cover 80 yards and make the score 28-21 as Davis added a 16-yard touchdown scamper to his two passing touchdowns.
The Jayhawks got a 47-yard kickoff return from freshman receiver Bradley McDougald after the touchdown, but the Golden Eagles intercepted a Reesing pass and embarked on another scoring drive. Davis found Massey again for a four-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal to even the score at 28.
On the following kickoff, Kansas received ideal field position for the second-straight drive after Stuckey posted a 50-yard kick return to place the ball at the Southern Miss 40-yard line just before the end of the third quarter. This time the Jayhawks took advantage of the kick return, and Reesing found Meier uncovered for a 12-yard touchdown, his second of the game, to make the score 35-28.
Kansas forced its second turnover on the following drive when sophomore cornerback Ryan Murphy intercepted a Davis pass near midfield with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game and the Jayhawks leading by seven.
Both teams traded possessions before Kansas' defense forced Southern Mississippi to punt with three minutes remaining. But the Jayhawks couldn't muster a first down, giving the Golden Eagles an opportunity to tie the game.
The Jayhawk defense then stepped up to the challenge as junior defensive end Jake Laptad sacked Davis on third down and sophomore cornerback Daymond Patterson batted down two passes to force a turnover on downs and seal the victory.
Stuckey led the Jayhawk defense with seven tackles and a forced fumble. Junior defensive back Chris Harris recorded a career-high 15 tackles, two for loss, and junior linebacker Drew Dudley finished with a career-best 10 tackles. KU finished with one sack by junior Jake Laptad on a late USM drive.
After a week off, KU will return to action Saturday, October 10, when it plays host to Iowa State at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 11:30 a.m.
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