Flash back to Sept. 12, 2009 when Kansas football beat UTEP, 34-7. Believe it or not, the Jayhawks haven’t won a road game since. That’s a span of five years and three different coaches, including Mark Mangino, Turner Gill, and Charlie Weis.
KU (1-0) will now try to stop that road losing streak when the Jayhawks play at Duke (2-0) Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Durham, N.C., at Wallace Wade Stadium.
After winning its season opener, 34-28, over Southeast Missouri State last Saturday and learning from its mistakes, the team is confident heading to Durham.
“There's visual evidence on tape based off of what they've seen last year and what they've seen these first two games (from Duke) 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. That's what they should expect,” KU Charlie Weis said.
It won’t be easy against a rising Duke team which is run by 2013 National and ACC Coach of the Year David Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils, who won 10 games last season (the most in program history) and lost a last-second contest to Texas A&M, 52-48, in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, started the season with a 52-13 home victory over Elon and then last Saturday’s 34-17 road win over Troy.
The Blue Devils rack up 509.5 yards of total offense per game while holding foes to 362. Duke has a balanced offensive game with 228.5 rushing yards per game and 281 passing yards. Quarterback Aaron Boone has completed 66 percent of his passes for 515 yards and five touchdowns, while Jamison Crowder leads a talented group of receivers with 14 receptions for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Crowder ranks sixth on the ACC career reception list with 212 catches.
“Their wide receivers are loaded,” Weis said. ‘Crowder might be as good a receiver as we play all year.”
Defensively, Duke is led by defensive back Devon Edwards with 21 tackles and one TFL. The Blue Devils have held their two opponents to just 30 points while recording five sacks.
“They're sound on defense, they're well-coached across the board,” Weis said. “On offense they've been on a roll now for over a year and doesn't look like they're going to slow down.”
KU certainly came out on a roll against Southeast Missouri State, leading 24-0 after the first quarter and clicking on all cylinders both offensively and defensively. But then the ‘Hawks ran out of “juice” and allowed 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Weis said the team just didn’t “finish.”
“Finish doesn't have to be just finish a game. It could be finish plays. I mean, finish is a kind of broad thing, but there are a lot of things, we're really close to a lot of plays, but really close isn't good enough,” Weis said. “We're really close to some sacks, we're really close to another three or four touchdown passes. We're really close to a couple easy, big runs. We're really close to having them in dire straits, but that doesn't make a difference.
“It's what really happens, not what you're really close to, and we're going to have to play significantly better this week to win.”
In many ways, this contest could come down to Duke’s potent receiving game against KU’s stout secondary.
“The people most dynamic on their team are the wide receivers. That also happens to be the position that we feel the best about on our defense, so something is going to have to give here. I'm rooting for the good guys,” Weis said.
And those crimson and blue “good guys” haven’t won a road game in five years. While it’s only the second game this season, Weis knows what a huge upset road victory would mean for the program.
“We haven't won on the road in an eternity, so to go ahead and get that out of the way the second game of the year, to get that one behind you, not only would it bring you back here at 2-0 with two home games coming up, but on top of everything else, that's one more thing that's put behind you that you're not worrying about anymore,” Weis said.
“Look, the season doesn't end with a win or a loss, but this would be a big win for our program.”