So much for easing into conference play. Kansas will jump in with both feet on Saturday afternoon, when they welcome Texas to Memorial Stadium. At 1-2, the Longhorns are very much a team in transition under first year coach Charlie Strong. However, the Longhorns still possess a great deal of talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball and will make for a brutal and punishing welcoming to league play.
Kansas (2-1) is trying to work the kinks out. They looked impressive for a quarter in their opening win over Southeast Missouri State, but finished sloppy. They were bludgeoned by Duke a week later and produced a strong fourth quarter that propelled them to a 24-10 win over Central Michigan. Now, it’s time to see if they are equipped to handle the Big 12 gauntlet that is upon them in a game that will be emotional for many reasons.
“Obviously. this is a big week for our program,” head coach Charlie Weis said. “25 percent of our kids are from the state of Texas. It's homecoming. I'm sure there's nothing earth shattering that Texas is looking at as they sit there and study us. They're coming off a bye week, and we're going to have to play really, really well to have a chance.”
Under Weis, the Jayhawks have come close to beating Texas before. In 2012, Weis’ first season at the helm, Kansas was so close to upsetting the heavily favorite Longhorns, that the first row of students had one leg over the railing, eyeing the goal post that were one turnover or one stop away from taking a very cold swim in Potter Lake.
However, a dropped interception with under two minutes to play, followed by a huge conversion on fourth down and eight allowed former Texas quarterback Case McCoy to engineer another comeback at the hands of Kansas, much like in 2004, to narrowly escape with a 21-17 victory.
“I think offensively we probably did enough two years ago, even though we didn't do a lot, we probably did enough to give us a chance to win,” Weis said. “Last year we just didn't do anything, and really didn't help the defense out at all. We are not going to go wild or anything like that. We're going to figure to try to play into a slugfest and win the game in the fourth quarter.”
This year, it will be about 40 degrees warmer and Kansas comes in with arguably its best chance to defeat Texas for the first time since 1938, but it won’t be easy. Though they are struggling, Texas has had a bye week to ready itself for league play and it is expected that they will bring a physicality to this game that the Jayhawks have yet to see in 2014. Kansas will have to match that and if Texas should overlook their hosts, Ku could be right back in another one with mighty Texas.
“There weren't any restless nights for their team when they watched those two games,” Weis said. “They're sitting there and saying, and this is who we're playing next? I would think that after watching those two games and then having a week -- a couple days off or something like that, feel pretty good about rolling into Lawrence for the start of their conference season. That being said, too, if all of a sudden it's halftime, this game is close, you know, which I expect it's going to be, I think that whole perspective changes.”