KU out to end road woes at Rice
Published on -9/11/2013, 10:11 AM
By DAVE SKRETTA
LAWRENCE -- As far as Kansas coach Charlie Weis is concerned, he's lost six straight road games.
He doesn't care about the 13 road losses that predated him, or the 16 straight defeats if neutral-site games are factored into the equation. Those came on someone else's watch. But he knows that it's important for the Jayhawks to end his slide -- six straight -- on Saturday at Rice.
"Winning last week got our losing streak out of the way," Weis said of a 34-14 victory over South Dakota that snapped the Jayhawks' 11-game losing streak dating to last season.
"Winning this week could get the losing on the road out of the way," Weis said, "and winning in three weeks against Texas Tech could get the conference losing streak out of the way.
"So this, this just gives us an opportunity to put one of those aside."
Among all the Jayhawks' losing streaks, including the 21-game skid against Big 12 opponents, it may be the road losing streak that's most vexing. They've played all kinds of teams in various places, some good and some lousy, yet haven't been able to put a win on the board.
Last season was a microcosm of those futile efforts.
The Jayhawks led Northern Illinois 23-13 early in the fourth quarter before surrendering the final 17 points of the game. Later in the year, the Jayhawks traveled to Texas Tech and scored first in overtime before allowing the Red Raiders to win 41-34 in two extra sessions.
So they've played close games, yes. They've also been involved in plenty of blowouts.
They gave up five second-half touchdowns in a 56-16 loss at Kansas State, and five first-half touchdowns in a 52-7 drubbing at Oklahoma and a 59-10 defeat at West Virginia to close the season.
"It's something we'll definitely keep putting in our kids' heads that you have to go on the road and win," Jayhawks assistant coach Clint Bowen said. "It's one of those milestones we need to accomplish as a team. All those negative things can disappear."
Very few players on the roster were around the last time the Jayhawks made a happy trip home to Memorial Stadium. Their last road win was Sept. 12, 2009, at UTEP, and guys such as safety Dexter Linton and linebacker Prinz Kande were redshirting that season.
Weis said he's had conversations with his captains about what it takes to win on the road, and the gist of his message was simple: It's time to take care of business.
"I think we can take care of the trip itself," Weis said, "but as far as being ready for kickoff, it's different at home. You have the home crowd, you have the band, the juice, and now all of a sudden, you're on the road and the home crowd isn't there."
In other words, the coaching staff can prepare the players, but the players must perform.
Weis made it clear that there are benefits to playing on the road. The team is ensconced in a hotel the night before the game, which limits distractions, and guys are able to focus and prepare better than they might if the game was being played in Lawrence.
He also said there are benefits to playing this particular road game.
Even though the Owls are coming off a bowl season and played Texas A&M tough for a half in their opener -- not to mention a victory over the Jayhawks last season -- they aren't exactly known for their intimidating environment. In fact, cavernous Rice Stadium can be quite quiet on game day, making it a bit easier for a young and relatively inexperienced Kansas team.
It certainly beats some of the crowds the Jayhawks will face in the Big 12, and that means it could present them their best opportunity to end their road losing streak.
"To go on the road," Weis said, "and have it not be 80,000 people going bonkers when you first rattle out of the box is probably a good thing."