LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)—Todd Reesing threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns, and No. 20 Kansas shook off the effects of a midweek fight with the basketball team to hold off Southern Mississippi 35-28 on Saturday.
Kansas (4-0), as usual, had no trouble moving the ball in rolling up 433 total yards. The Jayhawks weren’t so good on defense, allowing Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis to throw for 331 yards and three touchdowns.
Southern Miss (3-1) knocked off one BCS school last week, upsetting Virginia 37-34 at home to extend the nation’s second-longest winning streak to eight games. The Golden Eagles marched through Kansas’ defense (395 total yards), but couldn’t stop Reesing when they needed to.
Reesing, despite spending most of the game dodging defenders, hit Kerry Meier on a pair of TD passes, the second a 12-yarder that put the Jayhawks up 35-28 early in the fourth quarter. Meier finished with 10 catches for 141 yards. Freshman Toben Opurum had 109 yards and a touchdown rushing, added another score through the air to help Kansas win its 20th straight nonconference home game.
Kansas had a rough week after a series of altercations between members of the football and basketball teams rocked this normally placid campus.
The offense certainly didn’t seem to be bothered by the distractions.
Reesing hit Meier on 62-yard touchdown pass 80 seconds in the game, then led the Jayhawks on a 74-yard scoring drive capped by Dezmon Briscoe’s 20-yard reverse on their second drive. Reesing closed out the first half by floating a pass to Opurum out of the backfield for a 12-yard score that put Kansas up 21-14.
The defense? Not so good.
A breakdown on the outside led to a 49-yard completion on a screen pass on Southern Miss’ fourth play, setting up a 1-yard touchdown pass from Davis to Jonathan Massey. DeAndre Brown then slipped behind the defense and scored on a 22-yard pass up the sideline that tied the game at 14-all.
Another breakdown—an enormous hole up the middle—in the third quarter allowed Davis to scamper in for a 16-yard touchdown to cut the Jayhawks’ lead to 28-21. Davis set that up with a 49-yard pass to Brown down the middle and later hit Massey on a 4-yard TD pass to tie the game at 28-all.
The Jayhawks did stop Davis on fourth-and-1 from their 16 in the second quarter and forced two turnovers, including an interception by Ryan Murphy early in the fourth.
Still, giving up nearly 400 yards to a Conference USA team isn’t the best way to head into the wide-open waters of the Big 12.
Penalties were a problem, too.
Kansas was flagged for nine penalties for 77 yards in the first half, including a defensive holding call on third down before Massey’s score. The Jayhawks also had an illegal substitution penalty on that drive and again had 12 men on the field later, forcing a timeout.