Ask Kansas head coach Charlie Weis or his players and they’ll tell you that expect to go on the road to Duke, Saturday afternoon and come away with a win. Despite, limping to the finish in their opening game win over Southeast Missouri, there’s reason to believe that a program changing road victory could be in sight.
That’s just the kind of brashness and confidence that the Jayhawks will need as they face a Blue Devils (2-0) team coming off a 10-win season and an appearance in the ACC Championship game a year ago. To get it done, they’ll have to dig in and know that they can compete with them man for man.
“I think that when our players have already spent time looking at this match-up and they see their players and our players and they see how they play and how we play, I think that our players have visual evidence on tape that they have a legitimate chance of winning,” Weis said. “Now, if you told me we're going to show up for a quarter and just be out there for the next three quarters, then we've got no chance, okay. So that can't happen.”
Indeed, Kansas will have to start fast and continue to keep the foot on the gas, should get an early lead. Another key will be to not get rattled because of success. Ironically given the history of the program the past few years, they can’t be afraid to win.
Against SEMO, Kansas jumped on them 24-0 after a quarter and led 34-7 heading to the fourth, before a Redhawks rally closed the final margin to just 34-28. While some fans went from ecstasy to near agony…over a win, the team and coaches saw a valuable lesson present itself that could bode well going forward.
“Now, what do good teams do when that happens? They keep on laying the wood to them,” Weis said. “That's what they end up doing, so that's the teaching point was, okay, you got to this point, now just go bury them. That was the point. They're kind of like, okay, we're up 24-0, what happens now. They've been down 24-0, but up 24-0, that is not something they've experienced. It was very easy to teach off of that because it was on tape very transparent, very easy to – very easy to see.”
Then, there’s the issue of the road losing streak. It’s been very well documented that KU hasn’t not been victorious away from home since the then Todd Reesing led Jayhawks routed Texas-El Paso 34-7 on September 12, 2009. Much like the conference losing streak that ended last season, it’s another streak they’d like to not hear about and another thing to check off the list of hurdles the team is trying to overcome as they continue to improve.
“It is obviously part of the story right now,” offensive coordinator John Reagan said. “Really, to win on the road, you have to do the same things you do to win at home, just better. You have to execute, but you have to execute at a little bit of a higher level of consistency. As (defensive coordinator) Clint (Bowen) mentioned earlier, that margin of error goes down a little on the road because you don’t have the people behind you, you don’t have the comforts that you are used to and you are in a different environment. Ultimately, it really comes down to executing on the football field. Whether you are playing at Duke, Hawaii, Houston or Kansas, you just, in my opinion, have to go out there and execute our offense as well as we possibly can.”
Weis has said in the weeks leading up to the season that this is his most complete team he’s had at Kansas. A win over Duke would go a long way in furthering that notion and set them up for a huge start with a home game against Central Michigan next week. With momentum always lacking the past few years, getting rid of the road game demon could be just the spark Kansas under Weis has needed. To do that, they’ll have to believe it can be done and that kind of confidence is something their leader feels good about.
“There’s visual evidence on tape based off of what they've seen last year and what they've seen these first two games where they should expect to go down there and -- they should go down there with the anticipation of winning the game, not just hoping to win,” Weis said. “That's what they should expect.”