With 44 native Texans on the 114-man Kansas University football roster, returning to the Lone Star State to play anybody is a big deal.
Of course, with hundreds of potential future Jayhawks currently playing in the state playoffs across Texas, doing more than just showing up to play could go a long way toward helping KU’s latest rebuilding project.
Sure, many of the state’s most talented players will choose to play their college ball at Baylor or Texas or TCU or Texas A&M;, but, as KU has seen in the past, there are plenty of guys who fall through the cracks who can make a name for themselves at Kansas. First-year KU coach David Beaty believes showing them a product they can come away impressed by is as important as the final score of today’s game against the Longhorns, which kicks off at 7 p.m. at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.
“Yeah, you do,” Beaty said when asked if he thought his team had to show well to make the trip worthwhile. “I think that’s important for us. Guys want to see you improving. They want to see you getting better in places.”
Because of his strong ties to the state’s high school football scene, the outcome of one game between a struggling UT team and an overmatched Kansas squad will not be the be-all, end-all for KU in recruiting the state. But Beaty said, friends or not, it was crucial to show those coaches something they could sell to their athletes as well.
“A lot of those friends down there are literally calling and texting and saying, ‘Hey, man, I know a lot of people can’t see it, but I can see it,’” Beaty said of KU’s slow and steady improvement. “I’ve had a lot of calls. I’ve had a lot of guys saying, I’m going to be there. It’s going to be good. That’s something that’s paid dividends because our staff does such a great job down there. I know (those coaches and players are) going to be at the game, and I know they want to see improvement so, when (their players) come (to Kansas), they know they have bowl games in their future. That’s the reward for playing in college football, bowl games and championships.”
KU’s match-up with the Longhorns in Lawrence last season marked the final game in the KU coaching career of former head coach Charlie Weis. In the 2014 Big 12 opener, Kansas was blanked by Texas, 23-0, and Weis was fired the next day, four games into his third season in charge. Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen took over as interim head coach and guided the Jayhawks to one win the rest of the way before returning to his role as DC when KU hired Beaty to replace Weis.
Despite being in the Big 12 together since the inception of the conference, Kansas and Texas have met just 14 times in the history of the program. The series, though limited in head-to-head meetings, dates back to 1901, when the Jayhawks shut out UT in the first-ever meeting. The two teams played again in 1938 and then waited 58 years to battle one another during the opening season of the Big 12. KU lost that meeting in 1996, 38-17, and still has not knocked off the Longhorns in conference play. KU is 0-6 against UT in games played in Austin, Texas.
Longhorns to roll?
Oddsmakers gave Texas the heavy edge in this one when the lines came out last Sunday, and the betting public does not appear to disagree. UT opened as a 31.5-point favorite and enters today’s game favored by 28.