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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — All quarterback Montell Cozart had to do was grasp the snap and spike the ball, and give Kansas an opportunity for a tying field goal in coach David Beaty's debut.
Instead, the ball squirted onto the turf. Cozart quickly jumped on it. Time slowly ran out.
South Dakota State streamed onto the field to celebrate.
After blowing a big first-half lead, the Jackrabbits survived a frantic rally by the Jayhawks — and a tense few seconds at the very end — for a 41-38 victory Saturday.
"I felt like I got too lax," said Cozart, who threw for 291 yards and a touchdown in leading the comeback. "We work on clock situations all the time. When the ball hit me, I fumbled it."
Simple as that.
It was a dubious debut for Beaty, who became the Jayhawks' fourth head coach in the past seven years when he was hired to replace Charlie Weis. The former Kansas and Texas A&M assistant inherited a mess — 56 players return from last year, none of whom scored a touchdown.
Twenty-three players on the Kansas depth chart were signed by Beaty after his arrival. Among them was junior college transfer Ke'aun Kinner, who ran for 157 yards and two scores.
"Obviously, unbelievably disappointing right now," Beaty said. "That was a very tough locker room to look into for my first day as head football coach in division I football."
The youthful exuberance combined with Beaty's new "air raid" offense was flashy at times, a disaster at others. And a defense that figured to be the Jayhawks' biggest concern was gashed by a South Dakota State offense breaking in a new quarterback and running back.
Not that the Jackrabbits didn't deserve the win. Zach Lujan threw for 293 yards and three touchdowns, Isaac Wallace ran for 118 yards and another score, and Jake Wieneke pulled down eight catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns as South Dakota State roared to a 31-7 lead.
Then held on when their Big 12 opponent mounted a charge.
"We preach when you're on the field, you have a chance to win the game," Jackrabbits coach John Stiegelmeir said. "We had some guys rise up with some big plays."
The Jackrabbits hot start began by marching for an opening field goal, then picking off Cozart and nearly running it back for a touchdown — which they got two plays later anyway.
Ryan Schadler returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown to get Kansas within 10-7, but the Jackrabbits answered with two more scoring drives. Both finished with TD passes to Wieneke as the sophomore wide receiver piled up five catches for 125 yards in the first half.
Cozart committed his second turnover of the half when he was stripped while scrambling, and Brady Mengarelli scored on a 29-yard scamper to make it 31-7 early in the second quarter.
"It's exactly how we wanted to start the game," Lujan said.
After tweaking a few things during halftime, the Jayhawks put together two long drives to open the second half. Kinner capped both with touchdown runs, the second a meandering, hip-shaking 29-yard scamper down the sideline in front of the Kansas bench.
The teams swapped field goals before South Dakota State appeared to put the game away.
The Jackrabbits took over at their 25 and marched downfield in 10 plays, the biggest a pass from Lujan to tight end Dallas Goedert to convert fourth-and-5. Wallace plowed into the end zone two plays later to give the Missouri Valley school a 41-31 lead with 6:18 remaining.
The Jayhawks got within a field goal again with 2:18 left when Cozart hit tight end Kent Taylor with a fade from 10 yards out, then forced a punt and took over with 39 seconds remaining.
With no timeouts, they got within range of long field goal — one they never got to try.
"You never think about stuff like that until it happens to you," Cozart said of his game-ending fumble. "It feels like an uppercut to the gut."
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