LAWRENCE, Kan. - Lacking a playmaking spark throughout the first half, the Blue squad got a big one in the second by way of sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart and his pair of rushing touchdowns, lifting the Blue past the White, 20-10, during Kansas football's annual Spring Game inside Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Splitting time with the other depth chart leader, senior Jake Heaps, Cozart set the offensive tone with a game-high 58 yards in the air on 6-of-10 passing and charged for 70 yards on the ground, including two scores. His offensive output was boosted by senior running back Brandon Bourbon, who led the field with 96 yards on the ground.
The only game action of the spring season - albeit unofficial - was setup with its own unique set of rules. The Blue team, made up of the Jayhawks' first and second string players, began each drive on its own 25-yard line or wherever the punt or punt-return play ended.
On the White squad's side, comprised of the team's third and fourth string, each drive began in the same manner on punts and punt returns, but after a score, or the start of half, they were spotted the ball at the 50-yard line. Additionally, no live rushes were allowed in kicking situations, with the exception of the final play of the game, as they were no kickoffs or kickoff returns.
After being held to scoreless first half, the Blue team outdid the White squad with 327 yards compared to 220, off-setting the fact that White had the ball for nearly 10 minutes longer on the afternoon. Trailing 10-6 heading into the fourth quarter, Blue churned out a pair of unanswered touchdowns to flip the game around.
Heaps and junior running back Darrian Miller accounted for the first one, leading the march down the field that gave Blue its first lead of the game with 14 minutes to play. Cozart was responsible for the second when he broke free for a 60-yard sprint before punching it in two plays later for the final score of the game.
Thanks to his game-changing performance, Cozart earned Offensive Player of the Game while senior defensive lineman Keon Stowers collected Defensive Player of the Game honors. Stowers accounted for eight total tackles, four on his own, while teammate Jake Love chalked up 10 total tackles - six of the solo variety. Senior linebacker Ben Heeney led the Blue team with two tackles for loss.
On the White side, a beautifully executed flea-flicker play off the hands of Tre' Parmalee kicked off the day's scoring. The junior wide receiver already had a catch to his credit when junior quarterback Michael Cummings dished off the snap and Parmalee reacted with a textbook pass to senior wide receiver Andrew Turzilli. In full stride, Turzilli caught it over his shoulder for a 26-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead for the White team that would hold until halftime.
Turzilli ended his day as the team's leader in receiving yards with 57, also snagging a nifty catch on the sideline, while senior running back Taylor Cox ran for a team-best 63 yards. White did most of its shining on the defensive end, rattling off seven tackles for losses. Freshman linebacker Colton Goeas and junior defensive lineman T.J. Semke set the tone as each racked up a sack and a pair of tackles for losses.
The Cummings-to-Parmalee-to-Turzilli flea flicker amounted to White's only touchdown of the game, but the team found plenty of ways to keep it interesting. When Cozart ran the ball into the end zone for Blue's first touchdown of the game, a missed extra point prevented the squad from tying the game, but the White team also did its part to keep the score from evening out.
This time, sophomore quarterback T.J. Millweard took over behind center, while senior running back Taylor Cox broke out for a 26-yard run to set up a 23-yard field goal for sophomore kicker Matthew Wyman to take the 10-6 lead.
The lead would not hold as the effort from the White squad was finally overtaken by Blue's fourth-quarter surge that resulted in the 20-10 win.
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Head Coach Charlie Weis
General thoughts on the spring game performance...
"We were a bit sloppy in the first half, we didn't run the ball really well. I was disappointed about the first half but we came out better in the second half."
On the play of sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart...
"I was pleased to see him sit in the pocket. We know he can bootleg and run on the edge, but it was good to see him show some poise in the pocket."
On the team's development over spring practice...
"We still have questions, but we also have a lot more answers now than we did in the beginning of the spring. We've implemented a new offense and we still have a ways to go, but I think it's positive at this stage. We've got to continue raising the bar around here."
Blue Quarterback Montell Cozart
On his spring game performance...
"I had a few ups and downs in the first half, but after the half we (came together as a team). I started to get confidence. That first drive we moved the ball down the field and I scored. After that we kept going and started to put more pressure on the defense. Definitely a confidence booster, without the coaches' help and support from my players, I wouldn't be able to have the plays I did today - like going for 60 yards. I feel like giving the plays to those guys, I couldn't do it without them."
On gaining confidence since last season...
"I feel much more confident. That was one of my biggest goals and one of the biggest speed bumps I had to get over, and I definitely feel like I am making my way towards that."
On his ability to extend plays...
"That's just the type of quarterback I am. If the first read isn't there, being able to read around the pocket and look down the field to still make plays and those kind of throws."
On the quarterback competition...
"It's going well. We're all coming together and we're all going through the process. I don't feel like I am ahead of anyone or anyone is ahead of anyone else. We are all just staying together and trying to get better as a team."
Blue Defensive Lineman Keon Stowers
On the Spring Game...
"I think that the Two's (Second Team) looked better than the one's (First Team) out there. They came out and surprised a lot of people today. Not necessarily surprised, but they did what we expected them to do. I liked the energy out there and I think the first team defense picked it up tremendously in the second half. We were lacking in the first half. Other than that, I feel like we had a good day. We were flying around and we got some pressure on the quarterback, but they weren't throwing it very much with Mike (Michael) Cummings in there and we knew that. So we knew (pass) pressure was going to be a little iffy, but I think we did okay."
On the slow start...
"We knew we weren't playing up to our potential; we had been playing way better than that the whole spring. The leaders, me and (Ben) Heeney, were getting on everybody in the locker room at halftime to just pick it up. The defense was playing just a little bit better than the offense in the first half, but we all were picking each other up. We were all playing badly, but we picked it up in the second half."
On what the defense set out to accomplish in the spring...
"Being comfortable and knowing what we do and being confident in knowing what we do. Not having guys look around, looking at other people to tell them what to do. I think we really accomplished that out there. Looking at the Two's (Second Team) those guys were on it. They were going against the number one offense - this is a starting Big 12 offense and these guys are making it happen. Tyler Holmes, he played really good. Tedarian Johnson, he played really good, too. That's very promising as a first string-player - looking at the second string doing really good."
On the closeness of the game...
"It's a good feeling. You're getting season-like situations. This only happens in the season: you get that feeling where there's sweat dripping down your face, it's third-and-three and they get a first down and you've got another set. You have to just keep pounding and pounding so that was really good to be able to get a situation like that today."