In its early years, long-running T.V. variety series Saturday Night Live branded its cast members as “the not ready for prime time players.” Those who follow the Kansas football program closely might say the same of the Jayhawks, particularly after back-to-back debacles — against Texas Tech and at Iowa State.
Third-year head coach David Beaty would disagree.
Asked Monday on the Big 12 media teleconference for his thoughts on KU playing on the road this Saturday — at 7 p.m., on FOX — versus No. 4 TCU, the unfailingly hopeful Beaty called it a “great opportunity.”
“We’ve played really, really good football games with TCU,” Beaty said, citing two losses to the Horned Frogs in his first two seasons on the job. KU lost, 24-23, at home to Gary Patterson’s team a year ago, and even in Beaty’s winless 2015 season, the Jayhawks only lost 23-17 at TCU.
“It’s been a fun rivalry that we’ve kind of created there. A lot of our guys are going home. There’s a lot of people on our football team that live right there in that (Dallas/Fort Worth) area, and I think that always kind of adds to this game,” Beaty said.
Kansas (1-5 overall, 0-3 Big 12) scored 19 points in a blowout loss to Texas Tech coming off a bye week to open October, then produced just 106 yards of offense at ISU while suffering a shutout.
TCU (6-0, 3-0) leads the Big 12 in scoring defense (17.3 points allowed per game) and total defense (336.3 yards).
In program history, Kansas is 5-50-1 all-time versus teams ranked in the top five.
“We obviously know it’s going to be a terrific challenge, because they’re a great football team,” Beaty said. “But, man, you really could not script it any better to be on prime time and having that opportunity to start the back half of our season with these six games that we have left. What a great opportunity to get started right there in Fort Worth.”
In the weeks that follow, KU has back-to-back home games versus Kansas State and Baylor, followed by a road game at Texas, the home finale against Oklahoma and the conclusion of the season at Oklahoma State.
Back before World War II, a team from Gunnison, Colo., called Western State lost 44 consecutive road games from 1926-36.
The streak stands as the worst in college football history. But Western State could have newfound company as soon as this Saturday. Should No. 4 TCU, favored by 37.5 points according to Las Vegas oddsmakers, defeat Kansas, it would bring KU’s run of road losses — from 2009-16 — to 44, as well.
A reporter asked Beaty on the Big 12 call whether this week’s game took on any added pressure, due to the possibility of tying the historic stretch of road futility.
“We absolutely won’t focus on anything like that, as you know,” Beaty responded. “I didn’t even know what you were talking about until you said it. That may upset some people. My focus is on what we can control, which is us.”
The KU coach, whose personal road record stands at 0-13, reiterated his players are looking forward to the big stage.
“We felt like we let one get away against these guys last year,” Beaty said. “They beat us, 24-23. We missed three field goals going down the stretch that may have helped us win it. Man, we’ve been looking forward to this game for a long time. I know our guys are excited about it.”
The 43-game run of road failures itself, he added, has nothing to do with how current KU players view each road game.
“Like I said a couple weeks ago, most of these kids, they have no idea about this streak. They don’t hear much of it,” Beaty said. “But I think it’s something that gets talked about, and I understand it. But from our kids’ standpoint, the streak is not the issue for them. They don’t think about that. It’s about this game, this individual game and how we handle it. And if we take care of our business, then we’ll be in the win column. And the streak doesn’t have anything to do with that.”
As he tends to, Beaty fielded a question about how the team’s morale was impacted by Saturday’s loss.
The coach said the Jayhawks, losers of five straight since opening the season with a win over Southeast Missouri State, have been through “a lot.” According to Beaty, following a 45-0 loss at ISU, the players practiced Sunday and it went exactly as he expected it to, “if not better.”
“They also understand that a lot of the things that we’ve faced are self-inflicted, and all of them are fixable. We’ve got a team here that can be a problem if we can just eliminate mistakes that we cause ourselves,” he offered, “and that’s why the focus is just going to be on us. The focus has got to be on us and everything else will handle itself.”
The Big 12 announced Monday kickoff times for its Oct. 28 slate of games.
KU’s rivalry matchup with Kansas State at Memorial Stadium will begin at 2 p.m., and air on FOX Sports 1.