Montell Cozart slipped on a red headband, walking through the Anderson Football Complex with an ice bag taped around his knee.
The Kansas quarterback, after finishing media interviews, pulled his iPhone out of his pocket following KU’s 44-20 loss to Oklahoma State, his head lowered so he couldn’t see the TV on the wall to his right.
Had he looked up, he could have watched a few of his highlights on a televised postgame show. He could have looked at his impressive quarterback rating that flashed on the screen and perhaps heard the analysts talking about his performance.
And these were the strange circumstances following Saturday’s homecoming loss. KU was a 23-point underdog according to sports books, lost by 24 and still had plenty of reason to be encouraged thanks to Cozart and an improved passing offense.
“I was really pleased with the way he played today,” KU coach David Beaty said. “It’s a great example for the rest of those young guys about what will happen if you keep your eyes in the right place and you play by the rules.”
Beaty announced his quarterback switch early Saturday morning, moving away from Ryan Willis, who had seven combined turnovers in his previous two starts.
Cozart, for the most part, played well. He completed 24 of 40 passes for 250 yards, including a well-placed deep ball to LaQuvionte Gonzalez for a 68-yard first-quarter touchdown.
“I even told Coach, I was like, ‘Let’s go. Let’s take a shot,’ ” Cozart said. “We went out there and executed.”
KU led most of the first half and trailed just 17-13 at the break before everything unraveled in a familiar way — with turnovers.
It started when running back Ke’aun Kinner fumbled on the Jayhawks’ first possession of the second half, with the Cowboys following with a touchdown.
“I’m not going to say they hit it out,” Kinner said. “It’s just a mistake on me.”
KU answered with a TD drive before Cozart threw an interception to 310-pound defensive tackle DeQuinton Osborne, who was dropping in coverage on a zone blitz. Osborne’s return to the 1 made for another easy Oklahoma State score.
Afterward, Beaty took the blame for the mistake, saying Cozart had thrown to the correct place on a hot read with Oklahoma State not showing that specific defensive look in any other game this season.
The next drive, Cozart delivered a deep pass to an open Gonzalez, who allowed the ball to bounce off his face mask. Instead of a potential touchdown, the deflection was intercepted by safety Jordan Sterns, who later lateraled it as the Cowboys used a pair of pitches to pick up 64 return yards.
“I don’t know what you call it,” Cozart said. “That was just crazy.”
Even if these giveaways seemed less egregious than past weeks, they still counted. In the end, the three turnovers — all coming in the third quarter — held the Jayhawks back as they bumped their nation-leading total up to 25 in seven games.
“What’s really frustrating for all of us is it kind of got out of hand really quickly,” Beaty said. “I don’t think it was indicative of how the game was played.”
KU featured an improved running game, going over 200 yards for the first time all season. Kinner had 14 carries for 145 yards, while Gonzalez added 106 receiving yards.
Still, it was those critical mistakes that kept KU, 1-6 overall and 0-4 in the Big 12, from remaining competitive late in the fourth quarter.
Beaty announced after the game that Cozart would start KU’s road game at Oklahoma next Saturday, ending any talk of a quarterback controversy before it could start.
Even if Saturday's result wasn’t perfect, Beaty was pleased with Cozart's ability to read the defense and make quick decisions.
“It was very encouraging,” Beaty said. “We had several opportunities missed today, and, man, if we can get those things knocked out, it's going to be a lot of fun.”
Jesse Newell: @jessenewell