Dallas In front of a room full of reporters who instantly caught David Beaty in his favorite little white lie Monday morning at the Omni Dallas Hotel, the second-year Kansas University football coach repeated a concept he first introduced to his players months ago.
According to Beaty, coming off a winless 2015 debut, he is so focused on the Jayhawks’ upcoming Sept. 3 season opener against Rhode Island he doesn’t even know who they play the following week.
Senior safety Fish Smithson, one of three Jayhawks chosen to accompany Beaty to Big 12 Football Media Days, admitted the first time his coach took that angle it caught him off guard.
“What do you mean you don’t know, coach?” Smithson recalled thinking at the time. “You’re the head coach. You’re supposed to know.”
Of course, it didn’t take long for the crux of the message to sink in for the defensive back and his teammates. Smithson said they soon realized Beaty’s planted seed meant KU better prepare for its first opponent and realize that “nothing else matters” past that date at this juncture.
While the coach’s stance that the RIU game is “the most important game that we have ever played in our lives” is blatantly over the top, he said that system of delivery would drive home his point. Beaty also admitted his feigned schedule ignorance wasn’t an original idea, but one he copied to prevent his players from looking past any opponent.
“I think they knew it and they embraced it,” Beaty said, adding he first asserted his unfamiliarity with this season’s foes shortly after the conclusion of last season.
Junior KU linebacker Joe Dineen admitted players sometimes tend to zero in on the biggest names on the calendar.
“But when (Beaty) explains it, it makes so much sense. You’ve gotta go 1-0 each week,” Dineen added. “You can’t look forward to a different team, where you’re gonna get beat. Like last year, we probably looked forward (in a 41-38, season-opening home loss to South Dakota State) and we got beat. And that can’t happen. All of our focus is on Rhode Island, and then after that game, then it will go to the second game and the third game, you know, all down the road.”
The first time Cozart heard Beaty’s declaration, he agreed with it.
“Us as players, that’s the most important game that’s on our season, on our schedule,” the quarterback said. “We’re looking forward to that game and I feel like when we get things rolling we’ll get some confidence.”
Every Jayhawk who played in 2015 now has a greater respect for how difficult it can be just to win a game, and Smithson asserted they won’t surveying into the future this fall.
“You can’t count wins on your schedule just by looking at them and saying, ‘Here’s a win, here’s a win.’ You can’t do that,” Smithson maintained. “You’ve really got to go out there and earn each and every win. That’s why I think coach Beaty be harping on that a lot this year.”
So, about that Sept. 10 game. Does Smithson know who the Jayhawks will face?
“I don’t. I thought I did, but I don’t,” a grinning Smithson replied. “I see Rhode Island right there, Week 1, and I know they’re gonna have all of our attention.”
For the record, Ohio will visit Memorial Stadium in Week 2. So maybe Beaty knew what he was doing.
“Yes, it’s definitely working,” Smithson said. “It’s a trickle-down effect. It starts with the head man and it goes all the way down. If all of us are on the same page then the sky’s the limit.”