It's amazing how much one play can change the course of history. In 2004, if Vince Young doesn't convert a fourth down and 18 on a run, or if Freeman Johns doesn't call a hideous pass offensive pass interference on Kansas' Charles Gordon, does Mack Brown even see the 2005 season at Texas? Is there even a National Championship for the Longhorns in 2005?
In 2009, if Greg Brown catches a Case McCoy pass that hit him in the numbers, or if Texas doesn't convert on fourth and eight, or if Kansas has a kicker or any semblance of a passing game, again, is Mack Brown still the head coach at Texas?
Well, you know how all those games played out and Kansas fans try to forget, yet ask what if. Unfortunately, both of those aforementioned contests were in Lawrence and in Austin, there's been no drama.
Since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996, the closest Kansas has came was in 1997, when the Jayhawks finished with a better record (5-6) than the Longhorns (4-7). Kansas lost that game 45-31 and then lost the subsequent games in Austin, by scores of 59-0 (2001), 66-14 (2005), 51-20 (2009) and 43-0 (2011). So, as Kansas travels to Royal Memorial Stadium, the oddsmakers have them as a 27 point underdog. Can they actually end their conference losing streak there of all places? Likely not, but as last year showed, Kansas won't fear the mighty Longhorns and plan on fighting them, even on the road. Here's five things to watch this afternoon.
1. Ben Heeney
The bearded one will be back in the lineup against the Horns and that will provide the Kansas defense with a much-needed punch. Heeney's just not a special player, but he's fun to watch play the game. Hopefully, the man who makes "No Shave November" a year round practice will have a healthy strong last five games of the season.
2. Kansas defense vs Texas offense
The Longhorns have a lot of talent, obviously. Their running backs, Malcolm Brown, Jonathan Gray and Joe Bergeron are as good of a trio as any in the nation, but for the Kansas defense, they'll actually be a delight to see, only because of last week's matchup nightmares that Baylor presents. Texas's offensive style is more conducive to the Jayhawks strengths.
It'll make a for good matchup, as the longhorns prefer to pound the ball and have quarterback Case McCoy be more of a game manager, rather than try to win the game on his own. If Kansas can get him to make mistakes, that'll be a plus.
3. The Kansas quarterbacks
First of all, if the Jayhawks get nothing from their quarterbacks, all of this is a moot point. Freshman Montell Cozart showed some nice things in last week's 59-14 loss to Baylor, but he'll need to show more than that on the road against a great opponent. When Jake Heaps is in, he has to be on, something he's struggled with all year for one reason or several others.
4. Can Kansas establish the running game?
To get the quarterbacks going, they'll have to run the ball and run well. It'll all start with the offensive line, who showed some promise early against Oklahoma, when the Jayhawks dominated the line of scrimmage. If they can be consistent against a talented Texas defense, James Sims, Darrian Miller and Brandon Bourbon can control things and maybe open up things for the still struggling Kansas receivers.
5. Will Kansas show fear?
After playing games in a mostly tomb like atmosphere at their own Memorial Stadium, especially late in games, will the Jayhawks be rattled by over 100,000 fans at Texas' version of Memorial Stadium? Odds are, they won't. Primarily, because this coaching staff does a great job of getting their guys ready to play each and every week. They'll be likely to embrace being the bad guys.
Keys To A Kansas Victory
As unlikely as a road win is today, it's never impossible. Otherwise, they wouldn't bother playing the games. The Jayhawks must not make mistakes, especially early. They must avoid penalties and turnovers to have any shot at a win. On defense, they must match the physicality that Texas will bring to the table and force McCoy to beat them, then pick off some of his attempts to do so.
On offense, they must be better than they've been all season. Unfortunately, nothing to this date has given then indication that they can do so. But, you'd think at some point, something will click. Weis believes his team will be playing its best football at the end of the season. With November having arrived, today would be a great opportunity to take steps in that direction.