LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The season-opener against Kansas meant almost everything to South Dakota State quarterback Zach Lujan, who played for the first time Saturday without his grandmother watching from the stands.
He certainly made it a memorable afternoon.
Lujan threw for 293 yards and three touchdowns, Isaac Wallace ran for 118 yards and another score and the Jackrabbits spoiled the debut of Kansas coach David Beaty with a 41-38 victory over the Jayhawks on Saturday.
“This one’s for her,” Lujan said of his grandmother, who passed away a week ago.
Jake Wieneke had eight catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns, and Brady Mengarelli also ran for a score as the Jackrabbits hung on after blowing most of a 31-7 first-half lead.
The Jayhawks got in range to attempt a tying field goal in the final seconds, but quarterback Montell Cozart fumbled the snap when he merely needed to spike it to stop the clock. The last few seconds ticked away and the Jackrabbits raced onto the field to celebrate.
“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.”
Cozart threw for 291 yards and a touchdown, though he also had an interception and lost a fumble. Junior college transfer Ke’aun Kinner ran for 157 yards and two scores.
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.
“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.
The Jackrabbits marched for an opening field goal, then picked off Cozart and nearly ran 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 Mengarelli scored on a 29-yard scamper to make it 31-7 early in the second quarter.
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.”