Jackrabbits come up short at Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox each rushed for more than 100 yards, leading Kansas to a 31-17 victory over South Dakota State in the football season opener for both teams Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
The Jackrabbits took an early lead on the longest offensive play from scrimmage in program history. Backed up to their own 1-yard line after a punt, sophomore running back Zach Zenner broke through the line and outran the Jayhawk defense for a 99-yard touchdown run with 8 minutes, 33 seconds to play in the first quarter.
On the strength of its special teams unit blocking two punts, Kansas grabbed the lead. After the first blocked punt gave the Jayhawks the ball at the SDSU 47, Pierson capped a seven-play drive just before the end of the first quarter with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Josh Ford later blocked a punt that gave Kansas the ball at the Jackrabbit 7-yard line. However, the SDSU defense held firm, limiting the Jayhawks to a 22-yard field goal by Ron Doherty.
Pierson gave Kansas a 17-7 lead with his second touchdown of the game, a 47-yard scamper on the Jayhawks' first possession of the second half to finish off a five-play, 65-yard drive.
Austin Sumner, who was doubtful after suffering an injury last week in practice, was inserted into the Jackrabbit lineup on the ensuing possession, but his first pass was deflected by an SDSU receiver into the hands of Bradley McDougald, who returned the ball 30 yards to the Jackrabbit 30. Kansas turned the miscue into points as on fourth-and-1 from the 2-yard line, Crist found tight end Mike Ragone in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
The Jackrabbits drew to within 24-17 with a pair of scores early in the fourth quarter. Sumner hooked up Tyrel Kool on a 22-yard touchdown with 12:52 remaining and Justin Syrovatka added a 25-yard field goal with 8:39 to play.
But Kansas responded with a decisive eight-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Taylor Cox.
Each of the Jackrabbits' final three possessions ended in an interception. Sumner ended the game 14-of-31 passing for 175 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions. Redshirt freshman Eric Kline, who started the game at quarterback, completed 4-of-9 passes for 32 yards. Kool led the receiving corps with eight catches for 76 yards, with Brandon Hubert adding four receptions for 83 yards.
Zenner finished the game with a career-best 183 yards on 23 carries.
For Kansas, Pierson gained 124 yards on 20 carries, with Cox racking up 121 yards on 16 attempts. Crist completed 17-of-36 passes for 169 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Greg Brown led the KU defense with eight tackles. Bradley McDougald made six stops and added a pair of interceptions.
Ross Shafrath recorded a career-high 16 tackles to lead the Jackrabbit defense.
Total offense was nearly even as KU held a 432-411 advantage.
SDSU returns to action Sept. 8 at Southeastern Louisiana. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Strawberry Stadium in Hammond, La.
NOTES: Kansas leads the all-time series, 2-0, winning the only other previous matchup 86-6 in 1947 ... SDSU is 0-7 all-time against current Big 12 Conference opponents and 0-5 against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents since moving to the Football Championship Subdivision ranks in 2004 ... the previous long rush in Jackrabbit history was 95 yards by Mike Lunde in 1976 against North Dakota ... Zenner's previous career-high rushing total was 97 yards at Youngstown State (Ohio) on Oct. 8, 2011 ... Zenner became the first Jackrabbit running back to cross the 100-yard mark since Tyrel Kool gained 107 yards in 2011 season opener against Southern Utah ... Hubert has caught a pass in 19 consecutive games ... senior wide receiver Aaron Rollin had his consecutive-games streak with a reception end at 21 ... Skyler Luxa notched his first career interception ... junior college transfer Marshall Peugh had the Jackrabbits' lone sack of the night ... SDSU was 4-of-13 on third down, while Kansas was 5-of-17 ... attendance was 46,601