Lawrence, Kan. — After a shaky start by Montell Cozart a week ago, Kansas coach Charlie Weis decided to throw a bunch of short passes early in Saturday's game to give his young quarterback some confidence.
Cozart had plenty of it by the end.
The sophomore threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Justin McCay to break a fourth-quarter tie, then hit Corey Avery on a 30-yard strike with about 2 minutes remaining to seal a much-needed 24-10 victory over Central Michigan on Saturday.
"It felt real good to get some early completions," said Cozart, who finished with 226 yards passing. "I just wanted to get the ball to my playmakers and I did that."
Tony Pierson ran 74 yards for a touchdown on the game's opening play, but the teams mostly played to a stalemate until the throw to McCay with 13:23 left. The third-down throw was caught underneath the coverage, and McCay slipped the grasp of safety Dennis Nalor and scooted untouched the rest of the way.
"The first half we played obviously very conservative," Weis said. "(Cozart) completed most of those passes in the first half and in the second half we threw the ball downfield a bit."
Martez Walker had 56 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Chippewas (2-2), who were trying to start 2-0 on the road for the first time since 1985. They won at Purdue on Sept. 6.
Cooper Rush added 178 yards passing, but he was unable to march Central Michigan downfield when the outcome was still in the question. After Kansas had regained the lead, Rush was sacked on third down to end one drive and threw short of the first-down marker to end the next two.
JaCorey Shepherd picked Rush off in the final minutes, allowing Kansas to run out the clock.
"It was 10-10 in the fourth quarter," Central Michigan coach Dan Enos said. "Offensively we have to do a better job in the fourth quarter, keep our defense off the field a little bit and make some more plays."
The victory may have been a crucial one for Weis. The Jayhawks (2-1) were routed 41-3 by Duke last week, and Weis is trying to prove he's made enough progress in two-plus years in charge to warrant the rest of his five-year contract. It was just his third win over a Football Bowl Subdivision school.
"Because I sleep in my office and I have my computer off, I'm oblivious to the real world," Weis quipped. "I barely know what's going on with ISIS to tell you the truth. I'm oblivious."
After failing to reach the end zone last week, the Jayhawks needed all of 18 seconds to accomplish the feat Saturday. Pierson took a handoff out of the shotgun, glided to his left and cruised to the end zone. It was Kansas' first touchdown since the 10:17 mark of the third quarter against Southeast Missouri State.
After that, the Jayhawks managed 95 yards on 33 plays the rest of the first half.
Playing without its top running back, Thomas Rawls, due to a suspension, Central Michigan fared little better with the ball. Rush was under constant pressure, a quartet of runners found no room to move and punter Ron Coluzzi started to wear out his foot.
The Chippewas' Brian Eavey hit a 37-yard field goal to make it 7-3 at halftime, and Matt Wyman connected from 27 yards for Kansas early in the second half.
Walker, who did not have a carry in the first half, finally sparked Central Michigan early in the third quarter. The sophomore carried six times on a tying touchdown drive, barreling over All-Big 12 linebacker Ben Heeney on the way to the end zone.
"You always got to be ready," Walker said. "Once you get your opportunity you have to make the best of it."
Kansas buckled down on defense, though. And when Cozart hit McCay to regain the lead, a sparse crowd, made sparser by a 27-minute weather delay, finally exhaled.
"The locker room was as happy a locker room as we've had in a long time," Weis said. "Those guys knew the fourth quarter could go either way. We could have easily lost that game. But the fourth quarter, we made a bunch of big plays, a bunch of stops and some big plays on offense."
(At) Western Michigan 45, Murray State 14: Jarvion Franklin, a true freshman, had touchdown runs of 7, 22, and 13 yards. He finished with 168 yards on 30 carries, and has now rushed for over 100 yards in each game for Western Michigan (2-1).
Down 24-7 early in the third quarter, Murray State's T-Ray Malone scored on a 71-yard interception return to pull the Racers within 24-14. Western Michigan answered on its next series when Daniel Braverman ran for a 65-yard touchdown. Franklin's third touchdown made it 38-14 late in the third quarter.
Zach Terrell threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis, and ran for a 4-yard score for the Broncos.
Murray State's Marcus Holliday ran for a 3-yard touchdown to tie it at 7 in the first quarter.