LAWRENCE, Kan. - For three long seasons while Kansas lost one Big 12 game after another, James Sims just kept on keeping on, quietly fashioning one of the finest running back careers in school history.
Then on Saturday with Sims rushing for a career-best 211 yards and three TDS in a 31-19 victory against West Virginia, the 27-game conference streak finally came to an end. And the compact senior was beaming.
"It felt amazing. Just looking up at the scoreboard, us on top and them down," he said. "It's a wonderful feeling."
Kansas fans tear down the goalpost after beating West Virginia on Saturday in Lawrence, Kan.
Thousands of fans poured out their pent-up frustrations by storming the field, embracing gleeful players and coaches and tearing down the south goalpost. Right in the middle of the throng, laughing and hugging as much as anybody, was second-year head coach Charlie Weis.
"My enjoyment doesn't come from me," Weis said after his fourth victory in almost two full seasons. "I enjoy watching (the players) have fun. I do enjoy watching the smiles on everyone's faces. My true enjoyment is watching everyone else be happy. And you want to know something? That's pretty nice."
It was not a big crowd that braved winds gusting near 50 MPH to see the Jayhawks (3-7 overall, 1-6 Big 12) win their first conference game since besting Colorado on Nov. 6, 2010. Attendance has been spotty while Kansas fired two coaches and plunged into deep mediocrity after winning the 2008 Orange Bowl. Weis admitted he was "a little surprised" to see so many people run onto the field.
"I turned around and all of them were out there," he said. "Actually, it was kind of nice. It was kind of nice."
Sims broke runs of 62 and 68 yards while Kansas recorded just its second Big 12 win in 40 games and ended any bowl hopes for the Mountaineers (4-7, 2-6).
"I was planning on going to a bowl game," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We've got to evaluate where we're at. We've got to continue program development."
West Virginia, which wasn't even a Big 12 member when Kansas notched its previous conference win, took a 7-0 lead on its first possession, a long drive against the wind. But the Mountaineers were unable to generate anything more until two meaningless touchdowns with less than 5 minutes to play.
The Jayhawks, who came into the game 117th in the NCAA in total offense and 116th in scoring, rushed for 315 yards against a Mountaineer unit ranked No. 100 in total defense.
With the Jayhawks trailing 7-3 midway through the second period, Sims broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and fled 62 yards down the sideline to the 10. A minute later, he went over from the 3. Then with 28 seconds left in the first half, the 6-0, 200-pound senior bolted through a big hole and went 68 yards virtually untouched, giving him 14 100-yard rushing days, No 2 on the school's all-time charts.
"I looked up at the Jumbotron and could see there wasn't anybody behind me," he said with a grin.
At 17-7, the Jayhawks had their first halftime lead since the season opener.
When Sims powered his way into the end zone from three yards out to make it 24-7 following a West Virginia turnover in the third period, it was Kansas' biggest lead over an FBS opponent since mounting a 21-point advantage against Baylor in 2011.
Paul Millard was for 23 for 42 for 242 yards and two touchdowns in his third start for the Mountaineers but also threw two disastrous interceptions.
On a first down from the Kansas 30, he fired the ball right into the arms of Ben Goodman standing near the line of scrimmage. Goodman rambled 54 yards until Millard pushed him out at the 14.
"I was reading the quarterback and I put my hands up and all of a sudden I had the ball," said Goodman. "I was trying to run as fast as I could, which I guess wasn't very fast because the quarterback caught me."
After Montell Cozart went around right end for 7 yards, Sims scored his third TD. Then Ben Heeney intercepted Millard's pass in the fourth quarter and returned it 28 yards to the 1, setting up Brandon Bourbon's touchdown plunge.
The Mountaineers, who were making their first trip to Lawrence, drove 75 yards with their first possession and scored on Charles Sims' 12-yard catch-and-run from Millard. Millard threw a 3-yard touchdown to Kevin White with less than 5 minutes to play. With 28 seconds left, Charles Sims scored on a 6-yard run for the Mountaineers.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.