LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach Lance Leipold has always been focused on the future: the next game, the renovations that are about to transform Memorial Stadium, the long-term prospects of a program that has long been in the dumps.
“It’s time,” Leipold said after a 38-33 win over No. 6 Oklahoma on Saturday, “for me to start talking about how far we’ve come.”
Devin Neal ran for 112 yards and the go-ahead score with 55 seconds left, the Sooners’ Dillon Gabriel threw incomplete to the end zone on the final play of the game, and Kansas fans — finally relishing a bit of success after watching so many downtrodden teams over the years — were left to storm the field and celebrate one of the biggest wins in school history.
The Jayhawks snapped an 18-game losing streak to Oklahoma in their final matchup before it departs the Big 12 for the SEC, and they beat their highest-ranked opponent since defeating Virginia Tech in the 2008 Orange Bowl.
And the fans tore down the goal posts and dumped them into Potter Lake.
“This is a huge moment for this team,” said Jason Bean, starting once again in place of injured quarterback Jalon Daniels.
The Jayhawks (6-2, 3-2 Big 12) looked as if they had squandered their chance to win when, trailing 33-32 with 2:29 remaining, Bean threw an interception. But their vastly improved defense forced Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1) to punt, and after two completions and a fourth-down throw that gained 37 yards, Neal scampered in from 9 out against what appeared to be an ambivalent defense to give Kansas the lead back.
But it also give Oklahoma’s offense another shot with the ball.
Gabriel completed a 39-yard pass to Brenan Thompson to reach the Kansas 34 with 24 seconds to go. After a short throw to Jovantae Barnes and an incompletion, the quarterback who had been nearly perfect all season threw high to the end zone on the final play to touch off the field-storming celebration.
“I got caught in a whole bunch of students,” Leipold said. “I hope nobody gives me a breathalyzer just off the fumes out there.”
Bean threw for 218 yards with two interceptions while running for 62 yards and a touchdown. Daniel Hishaw also had two TD runs for the Jayhawks, who had not beaten Oklahoma since October 4, 1997.
Gabriel finished with 171 yards passing and three touchdown runs, and Tawee Walker ran for 146 yards and a score, though the Sooners were left to lament too many missed opportunities and the end to their perfect season.
“Turned the ball over, penalties — the timing of all of it was really poor,” Oklahoma coach Brent Venables said. “As I told them, we’re not going to be defined by any one win or any loss. We have a lot still in front of us. But this one hurts. It stings.”
Until the fourth quarter, it had been a dreary Homecoming for the Jayhawks.
A sellout crowd packed Memorial Stadium early to watch Fox’s pregame show, then started getting wet when rain moved in after kickoff. Midway through the second quarter, lightning lit up the sky, causing a delay of about an hour. And when the game finally resumed, about half that crowd was left — and a big portion of that was chanting “Boomer Sooner.”
All those Kansas fans that stuck it out were in for a treat.
The Jayhawks had jumped to a 14-0 lead on a pick-six by Mello Dotson and Hishaw’s first TD run. But the Sooners, who had been struggling without injured running back Marcus Major, soon found their stride.
When the Jayhawks fumbled a kickoff, Gabriel’s second touchdown run marked 21 unanswered points for Oklahoma.
The seesaw affair was just getting started, though.
The Jayhawks had closed within 21-20 in third quarter when they pounced on a fumble and Bean ran 38 yards for a score. The Sooners answered with a 75-yard TD drive to take a 27-26 lead, only to watch the Jayhawks capitalize on three personal fouls — including one on the Oklahoma bench for arguing about the first — to regain a 32-27 lead.
Kansas nearly made it a two-possession game in the fourth quarter when the Sooners muffed the ensuing kickoff, but a holding penalty brought back Hishaw’s 20-yard touchdown run and Seth Keller missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt.
The Sooners seized upon the opportunity. Their defense got a hand on Bean’s pass and Billy Bowman picked it off at the Kansas 14. Gabriel scored less than 2 minutes later to take a 33-32 lead with 5:22 to go.
Plenty of time for the Jayhawks to score one more touchdown and make a big defensive stand.
“Everyone trusted what we’ve been doing,” Hishaw said. “I guess you could say this is a little bit of payoff.”
Oklahoma: Three turnovers and 11 penalties for 101 yards were big reasons why the Sooners’ College Football Playoff aspirations took a big hit. Now, they find themselves in a logjam of Big 12 teams with one conference loss.
Kansas: Almost as an afterthought, the public address announcer made note to the field-storming fans that the Jayhawks were bowl-eligible again. It’s only the second time in school history they have qualified in consecutive seasons.
Oklahoma visits Oklahoma State next Saturday in the last edition of Bedlam for the foreseeable future.
Kansas heads to Iowa State next Saturday.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll