The Kansas University football team is headed back into enemy territory this weekend in Lubbock, Texas, where it will look not only to build on last week’s near-upset of No. 16 Oklahoma State, but also to snap a 29-game losing streak away from home.
Don’t expect KU coach Clint Bowen to put much emphasis on the latter part of that tall task prior to Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. kickoff at Texas Tech.
“It’s not that long-term stuff,” said Bowen when asked how he handled the psychology of going back out on the road. “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. If you keep doing things right and keep doing them right over and over and over, then usually success follows.”
The Jayhawks (2-4 overall, 0-3 Big 12) are 0-for-2 in road tries this season, with a 41-3 loss at Duke in Week 2 and a significantly more encouraging 33-14 loss at West Virginia two weeks ago already in the books. The Jayhawks are 1-14 all-time against the Red Raiders (2-4, 0-3) but the lone victory came in 2001 in Lubbock — 34-31 in overtime — and the Jayhawks have played at Tech just four times since 2000, with the most recent loss coming in double-overtime in 2012.
None of that, of course, has any bearing on this week’s game. And if Bowen has his way, none of the losses dating back to the 2009 road victory at UTEP will either. From this point on, it’s all about sustaining and growing momentum, whether they’re playing at home or on the road, against a Top 10 team or one at the bottom of the Big 12 standings with them.
“We try to do a lot of things and create energy and enthusiasm,” Bowen said. “When we walk into this meeting room, it’s never quiet. We always have music blaring, videos playing, there is always something going on. We try, with everything we do, to keep it going.
Added offensive coordinator John Reagan: “I think the circle’s tightening. I think these kids believe in each other and they believe that the only way we’re gonna have success is if we stick together no matter what. If that’s part of the goal, then you work toward that. You don’t (worry) about all the other stuff. You work toward winning the block across from you or throwing the pass to your receiver. And when that happens more than it doesn’t, then you start winning.”
Tap the brakes
KU quarterback Michael Cummings and center Joe Gibson made their first starts of the season during last week’s loss to Oklahoma State and both found their names planted at the top of KU’s updated depth chart this week.
While those are the most noticeable personnel changes that Bowen has made since taking over — others have shown up on various special teams units — he doesn’t want to get into a situation where depth chart overhaul becomes the norm.
“From this point on, I think it will probably settle down a little bit and it won’t be as drastic a change,” Bowen said.
Senior cornerback Dexter McDonald, who missed all but one play of last week’s loss to Oklahoma State, was listed in his normal spot on the KU depth chart and is expected to play Saturday at Texas Tech.
“Yeah, he’s fine,” Bowen said. “Knock on wood, we’re staying pretty healthy.”
Neal to defense
Freshman Derrick Neal, a 5-foot-10, 155-pound slot receiver from Dallas, has spent the past couple of weeks working in the secondary. Bowen said the coaching staff chose to move Neal from offense to defense to give him a better chance of getting on the field.
“(He) wasn’t really factoring in on the offensive side of the ball,” Bowen said. “But he’s a guy that is extremely athletic and quick and fast. He played DB in high school and had some experience with it, so we moved him over there, took a look at him, and he had some pretty natural skills.”
Bowen said it was too early to tell if the position change would be permanent, but defensive backs coach Dave Campo said he’d love to see Neal stay on defense.
“I really like the kid as an athlete,” Bowen said of Neal. “He wasn’t playing, so you gotta get your best guys on the field in some way.”