LAWRENCE, Kansas — Clint Bowen had a chance to make a splash in his first home game since taking over as interim coach at Kansas.
Instead, he kicked a field goal and it cost him.
Oklahoma State's Tyreek Hill took the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown, sending the No. 16 Cowboys to a 27-20 victory over the Jayhawks on Saturday.
"We just felt we had to tie the game," Bowen said of his crucial call with 6:55 left in the game, when the Jayhawks were facing fourth-and-1 at the Oklahoma State 18.
Rather than gamble, Bowen opted for the safe call.
"I think the field goal was a good move at the time," said Jayhawks quarterback Michael Cummings, who started his first game since 2012. "I think that was the right decision."
Daxx Garman threw for 161 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Cowboys (5-1, 3-0), while Desmond Roland ran for 87 yards and another score. But their offense otherwise struggled against a Kansas defense that hasn't always been that stingy.
"You never want to go to a place and lose," said Cowboys wide receiver Jhajuan Seales, who caught a touchdown pass. "Kansas had a great scheme and came out and played well."
Oklahoma State led 20-7 at halftime, but the Jayhawks rallied to tie the game 20-all late in the fourth quarter. It didn't last that way for long.
Hill, whom the Jayhawks had avoided kicking to all game, took the kickoff up the Kansas sideline for the go-ahead touchdown. The junior college transfer also returned a kickoff 97 yards in the Cowboys' win over Iowa State last week.
Cummings was picked off with 53 seconds left to seal the outcome.
"We were trying to get it done," he said.
Playing its first true road game, Oklahoma State won its sixth straight at Memorial Stadium. It was also its fifth straight Big 12 road win.
The Cowboys got off to a slow start, though, a problem that has plagued them throughout the season. They had to settle for Ben Grogan's 43-yard field goal on their opening drive, and then allowed the Jayhawks to drive 81 yards the other way for a touchdown.
The big play was a 51-yard pass from Cummings to Nick Harwell down the sideline.
Oklahoma State answered with a 33-yard touchdown run by Roland, but the Cowboys kept squandering chances to put the game away. They settled for another field goal, went three-and-out on their next drive, and then kicked yet another field goal.
It wasn't until a shanked punt by Trevor Pardula with just over a minute left in the half gave the Cowboys prime field position that they threatened to put the game away. Five plays later, Seales hauled in a short touchdown pass for a 20-7 lead.
Unlike so many times the past few years, Kansas refused to fold.
Cassius Sendish picked off a pass to foil Oklahoma State's first drive of the second half.
Moments later, Tevin Shaw jumped on a fumble that everybody in orange seemed to think was an incomplete pass and returned it to the Cowboys 15, setting up a short field goal.
It remained 20-10 until early in the fourth quarter, when Kansas needed four plays to go 83 yards.
Avery capped the drive with a 23-yard touchdown run, energizing a paltry crowd of roughly 15,000 — the combination of Late Night in the Phog the previous night, fall break for students and the Royals-Orioles playoff game did a number on attendance.
Kansas quickly forced a punt, and then went 72 yards, converting a key fourth-and-2 along the way. But when Bowen was faced with going for it on fourth-and-inches at the Cowboys 18 with 6:55 left, he elected to kick a 35-yard field goal to tie the game instead.
It stayed tied for as long as it took Hill to return the kickoff 99 yards.
"Big plays change games," Oklahoma State wide receiver David Glidden said. "We were fortunate that the big play happened for us."
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