Bowen, a defensive back at KU in the early 1990s, dispelled any notion that his team would be able to overall any schemes within one week. The idea, typical in similar situations, is to continue to operate on all three sides with slight tweaks to the mental approach. There’s no question, after years of lackluster performance and the loss of head coach Charlie Weis, that the Jayhawks are the clear bottom feeder in the Big 12, and must begin to will themselves out of the cellar by playing above their current talent and execution levels.
“Our plan, in talking with our players, is just to operate the same day-to-day and hour-to-hour and minute-to-minute,” said Bowen, who was told Sunday morning that he would be the interim head coach for the remainder of this season. “We are going to work on attitude. There isn’t enough time to change the offense or defense now. We are what we are and have practiced. We just gotta do it better. As we put it together, the most important thing for us and our players was to put all this behind us and get our minds focused on West Virginia and to give the players who deserve it a chance to win games.
“I think we have always had a very professional staff here. We have a mix of young coaches and veterans and we have always pulled together and were on the same page and following the direction that coach Weis gave us. The internal conflict was not really an issue. Coach Weis had his plan and way of operation and the staff was on board with that. … We agreed that we would take this thing for the next nine weeks and see what we could do with the season, and how we wanted to operate the program and what’s important to us, and what’s important to Kansas football.”
The Jayhawks are 2-2 on the season, with victories over Southeast Missouri State and Central Michigan by a combined 20 points and blowout losses to Duke (41-3) and floundering Texas (23-0) for a combined margin of 61 points. For perspective, KU managed 95 total points in Big 12 play last season outside of the 31-19 win over West Virginia – the lone Big 12 victory in 19 tries for Weis. For that reason, and many others, the assistants hired by Weis are understandably anxious about job status while Weis, who went a combined 41-49 in seven-plus seasons at Notre Dame and Kansas, will be rank in the top 10 highest paid college coaches this season and next while not working because of the contractual buyout obligations at both schools. Weis was 6-22 at KU, finishing last in the Big 12 in both full seasons, meaning he was paid about $2.1 million per win.
“Guys are fired and guys get nervous, they have families and all that,” Bowen said. “But they were great. We put together a daily plan and then got with the players to assure them that we will give them the best season possible. I feel blessed to have this chance and I’m going to embrace it and work as hard as I can and give these players every opportunity that we can possible come up with.
Bowen said he feels he has the “best grasp on this defense and where to adjust. I feel at this point in time that I need to continue to control the defense.” The staff, however, has plans for certain coaches to be in charge of clock management, of offense, and of the remaining game responsibilities that must be executed for any type of winning scenario. That certainly has taken some time away from typical prep, though the practice and player meeting hours are so much more limited in college than the NFL that it might not be a severe detraction.
Kansas currently ranks 121st in the nation, of 125 teams, in points per game (15.3). The Jayhawks are 110th in passing yards (165.5), 43rd in rushing (193.5) and 67th in points allowed (25.5). West Virginia, also 2-2 overall, 0-1 Big 12, rates third in passing yards (401.8), with quarterback Clint Trickett having already reached the 1,600-yar mark, and 39th in points (37.5). The Mountaineers are 84th in points (28.8) and rushing yards (149.8) allowed.
“This has disrupted the normal schedule I would have operated upon as the defensive coordinator, and it couldn’t be a worse week because this West Virginia team has changed,” Bowen said. “They are obviously an explosive offensive team, they’re playing well on defense. Coach (Dana) Holgorsen has this team ready for this season. They have some playmakers and they are a dangerous bunch.
“My old college coach, Glen Mason, used to say the two most important people in the program are the head coach and the quarterback, and not in that order. The young man, Montell Cozart, knows that he has to perform. That’s the nature of that position. The offense will start with him and he understands that plays have to be made. You don’t have to make the great ones, but you do have to make the plays that are there. We are going to work hard to make sure that everything we are asking him to do is in his comfort zone. The wide receivers have played well, the offensive line has to develop a mentality for whatever it takes to get the job done.”