Former Kansas coach Charlie Weis always talked about negative marks for the Kansas football program to check off the list, such as their Big 12 losing streak, which ended last year and of course, the road losing streak which still exists. His successor Clint Bowen sees things a bit differently.
Since replacing Weis following the loss to Texas three weeks ago, Bowen is more concerned with bringing the Kansas football family back together again and implementing the process and formula he’s seen work at Kansas in the past. The idea is getting better each day and continue to “saw wood” as one former coach used to put it.
“It's not that long-term stuff. It's day-to-day. It's taking care of whatever is six inches in front of your face and getting that part of it done,” Bowen said. “If you keep doing things right and keep doing them right over and over and over, then usually success follows.”
Such will be the way things go, going forward, as the Jayhawks (2-4, 0-3) head to Lubbock to face struggling Texas Tech in a game that on paper could be seen as ripe for the picking. Still, under Kliff Kingsbury, the Red Raiders (2-4, 0-3) can ignite at any moment, something KU hopes to avoid.
“They run an offensive system that can put you in some stressful positions as a defense on that side of the ball,” Bowen said. “They've done a nice job developing a system that creates space for the players. They have good athletes at wide receiver. They have a good athlete at running back. They run the ball as much as they throw it.”
Under Bowen, the Jayhawks have picked themselves off the proverbial mat. After looking lifeless at times prior to his promotion, Kansas has started resembling some of teams of Jayhawk past. Though, they.ve lost both games to West Virginia and Oklahoma State, they are much more competitive and have fought to the end, which is no accident.
“We are a team in progress. I believe if you come to our practices, we're still not urgent enough. But, our practices, I feel, our kids are understanding the importance of urgency more,” Bowen said. “It has to continue to improve. I think on the field we've been able to go out and put back-to-back games where we played hard and got more physical this last game. I think there is progress going on.”
On offense, Kansas is still a work in progress, but received a desperately needed boost with the insertion of redshirt junior Michael Cummings at quarterback. Cummings passed for 288 yards in last week’s 27-20 loss to the Cowboys, but his steady play had the Jayhawks in position to win the game late.
Defensively, Kansas held high scoring Oklahoma State to just 20 points (seven came of a game winning kickoff return touchdown) and under 300 yards total offense. They’ll be sure to be put to the test this week in Lubbock.
However, one of Bowen’s biggest mission since taking over the program has been to get back to establishing an identity that everyone can be proud of, something that served Kansas well and led to some of its greatest success in the recent past. In his eyes, his team is well on its way.
“And I believe our players have bought into what we talked about. Are we there yet? No. We're still a long ways away. But, in terms of creating a product on the field that we know each and every week is what Kansas football is going to represent, that's where we're headed,” Bowen said.
“That is part of what I keep talking about. When you leave, I’ll be able to say this. Those guys played extremely hard. They're going to fight until the end of the game. They're going to be tough. Can't win football games without being physical and being tough. At the same time, they look like they know what they're doing. They're smart. They're don't beat themselves. That's got to be our trademark.”