MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Jalon Daniels threw three touchdown passes, including one in overtime, and cornerback Jacobee Bryant returned an interception for a score on the final play as Kansas beat West Virginia 55-42 in their Big 12 opener on Saturday night.
Kansas (2-0, 1-0 Big 12) has won its first two games of the season for the first time since 2011.
“For us to get off to a 2-0 start and keep stacking (good) days the best we can, it says a lot," Kansas coach Lance Leipold said. “But it will only mean a lot if we go out and play well again.”
West Virginia rallied from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime tied at 42.
After Daniels found Quentin Skinner with a 4-yard scoring pass in overtime, Bryant stepped in front of JT Daniels’ pass intended for West Virginia’s Bryce Ford-Wheaton and ran 86 yards untouched into the end zone to end the game.
The Mountaineers (0-2, 0-1) have lost their first two games for the first time since 1979.
Jalon Daniels had another efficient passing game and was especially elusive with his legs. He ran for a career-high 85 yards, eclipsing the 45 yards he had in a win over Texas last year.
“I’m not somebody who’s gonna turn down any kind of contact,” he said. "I play quarterback but at the end of the day, we’re trying to move the sticks. The game of football is to be able to keep getting yards, moving the sticks, and get into the end zone. I’m gonna do what I have to do.”
In his last six starts, Daniels has completed 70% of his passes. He finished 18 of 29 for 219 yards on Saturday.
Devin Neal had two rushing touchdowns and a 17-yard TD catch from Daniels. Daniel Hishaw had a pair of scoring runs, including a 30-yarder early in the fourth quarter to put Kansas ahead 42-31.
Down 42-34, the Mountaineers got the ball back on a punt with 2:17 left. Kaden Prather caught a tipped pass and ran 25 yards to the Kansas 23. JT Daniels found a sliding Ford-Wheaton with a 21-yard pass to set up CJ Donaldson's short TD run with 35 seconds left. Daniels and Ford-Wheaton hooked up again on the tying 2-point conversion pass in the back of the end zone.
In overtime, Kansas got the ball first and appeared to be going nowhere when Torry Locklin was tackled for a 6-yard loss on third-and-5 from the 20. But West Virginia's Taijh Alston was flagged for roughing the passer to give Kansas a first down at the 10. Three plays later, Jalon Daniels found Skinner for a 49-42 lead.
On West Virginia's possession, Daniels was hit by Kansas defensive lineman Malcolm Lee on second down. The ball came loose and a review confirmed that Daniels' arm had moved forward for an incomplete pass. On the next play, Bryant intercepted JT Daniels' pass intended for Bryce-Ford Wheaton.
“I think that corner did a really good job. He jumped it," JT Daniels said. "You give credit where it’s due. That's the name of the game. It's a crazy sport. You can play really, really well until the end, then one play can really decide a game.”
JT Daniels had first-half TD tosses of 59 yards to Sam James and 67 and 5 yards to Ford-Wheaton. Daniels finished 28 of 40 for 355 yards. Ford-Wheaton finished with 11 catches for 152 yards.
It marked the second straight game that Bryant scored a touchdown. He returned a blocked field goal 61 yards for a TD last week against Tennessee Tech.
Leipold said he yelled at Bryant from the sideline to fall to the ground after the overtime interception.
"He listens real well, doesn’t he?” Leipold said.
Kansas: The Jayhawks refused to quit after trailing 21-7. Kansas converted 11 of 15 times on third down in winning for just the second time in 12 meetings with West Virginia. After Kansas rushed for 297 yards a week ago, they had 200 yards against the Mountaineers, an average of 5.6 yards per run.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers outgained Kansas 501-419 but didn't take advantage. Donaldson, a freshman who ran for 125 yards on just seven carries in a loss at Pittsburgh a week ago, had trouble finding holes against Kansas and was limited to 48 yards on 13 carries.
Kansas plays at No. 25 Houston next Saturday.
West Virginia hosts Towson next Saturday.