Kansas 23, Cincinnati 18
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ June Henley scored on a 7-yard run immediately following a fumble recovery with 4:43 remaining, lifting heavily favored Kansas to a hard-fought 23-18 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday in a season opener.
Eric Richards’ third long field goal, a 42-yarder with 7:10 remaining, had pulled Cincinnati into a 16-16 tie.
After a Kansas punt, Cincinnati quarterback Eric Vibberts fumbled when hit by Dorian Brew. The ball was recovered at the 7 by tackle Dan Dercher and Henley scored on the next play.
On the next possession, Dercher sacked Vibberts for a 10-yard loss when the Bearcats faced third-and-12.
On the next play, Brew intercepted Vibberts’ desperation pass. Kansas took a deliberate safety with 21 seconds remaining, a strategy that nearly backfired.
After Robert Tate’s 33-yard return of Kansas’ free kick, two quick passes put the Bearcats at the Kansas 20 with seven seconds to go. Vibberts’ pass was deflected in the end zone.
Vibberts, who has been nursing a knee injury and did not enter the game until 8:18 remained in the second quarter, connected with Tate on an 82-yard scoring pass early in the third quarter that gave Cincinnati a 10-9 lead. Tate took the throw down the sideline and beat Avery Randle to the end zone.
Richards’ 44-yarder with 7:56 left in the third quarter put Cincinnati on top 13-9.
In the final minute of the third period, Kansas’ Mark Williams threw a pass straight into the arms of Cincinnati linebacker Brad Jackson, who dropped it. On the next play, on fourth-and-3 from the 30, Williams snapped a short pass to Ashaundai Smith who faked out Sam Garnes and danced into the end zone to put the Jayhawks ahead 16-13.
Kansas’ much-advertised new passing offense looked tentative and sluggish most of the day, particularly in the early going. Williams hooked up with running back Henley for the first meaningful completion of Kansas’ new aerial era, a 19-yard gain to 50.
A personal foul on Cincinnati added 15 yards, and a few minutes later Jeff McCord kicked a 24-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Darrin Simmons sped 63 yards with the ensuing kickoff and set up the Bearcats at the Kansas 31. A few minutes later from the 30, Richards kicked a career-long 47-yard field goal that tied it 3-3 with 13:15 left in the half.
Williams’ 20-yard run around left end keyed Kansas’ lone sustained march of the first quarter. Williams’ run put the ball on the Cincinnati 12, and Smith put it on the 6 with a quick slant pass. A personal foul penalty put it on the 3, where Henley carried it in.
McCord’s extra point attempt was wide left, leaving Kansas ahead 9-3.