Archive for Thursday, September 28, 2000

Underdog Jayhawks ready for big road test at OU

September 28, 2000


A week ago at this time, Kansas University football coach was waxing philosophic about the dangers of overlooking an NCAA Div. I-AA school.

On Wednesday at his weekly press conference, Terry Allen was asked if the cleat was on the other foot.

"It's one of those games where we've got everything to gain and nothing to lose," Allen said. "In a game like this, you can do some things differently, offensively and defensively, and try to create some things."

Allen said much the same thing last week about little Southern Illinois, a team Kansas spanked, 42-0, last Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Next up for KU is mighty Oklahoma, undefeated and ranked 14th in the country. Kickoff for KU-OU will be 2:08 p.m. Saturday at Oklahoma's Memorial Stadium.

Are the SIU-KU and KU-OU situations parallel?

"In one sense, yes," Allen said, well aware the Jayhawks are 24-point underdogs. "In another sense, no. It is a conference game. It's not like David and Goliath, which you can use in a I-AA situation."

On the road, the Jayhawks have been more like Job.

They're 1-14 under Allen in games away from Memorial Stadium and haven't won a Big 12 road game under him. Their last conference road victory came in 1996, a year before Allen took over for Glen Mason.

And though the Jayhawks (2-1) showed marked improvement against SIU, Allen isn't ready yet to pronounce the Jayhawks of sound mind and body.

"We're still a team that's struggled with winning on the road," Allen said. "Until we overcome that, anytime we play on the road we could be called fragile."

One way Allen hopes to toughen the Jayhawks is by turning up the volume at practice. Literally. He plans to pipe in background noise during today's practice at Memorial Stadium.

"What it does is raise the level of attention," Allen said of the tactic he's used a handful of times in the past. "Better communication has to take place on the field. It does create somewhat of a frenzy situation, a disruptive situation, with the background noise."

The form of the noise hasn't been decided, but Allen has a few ideas.

"Music. Music or static," he said. "Static can be really annoying."

The Jayhawks are sick of the static they've taken about their road woes.

"I don't know what it is," KU junior nose tackle Nate Dwyer said. "We've talked about it and evaluated it, trying to figure out what's going on, what the problem is, and we're not coming up with much. For some reason, we're not as motivated on the road, not as excited. The coaching staff is working on that this week. Oklahoma's a huge game for us."

Or, as Allen put it, "We could put SMU to bed if we get the upset here."

Allen is convinced last week's preparation will help. Instead of concentrating solely on SIU, the Jayhawks started preparing for Oklahoma and its multiple-spread offense and attacking defense.

"We gained a little confidence on both sides of the ball," Allen said, "and we did some personnel preparation for this game two weeks ago. They understand that."

Rest assured the Jayhawks aren't preparing for next week's opponent, Kansas State, this week.

Or are they?

"Ironically," Allen said with a laugh, "Kansas State's defense and Oklahoma's defense are quite the same. It's basically the same defense. So offensively we are preparing for Kansas State."

Injury update: Backup nose tackle Ryan Atkinson, who suffered a knee injury against SIU, will not play Saturday. Defensive tackle Ervin Holloman will spell Dwyer, with help from Demond Benford, De'Nard Whitfield and John Culp.

"It's going to hurt not having Ryan," Dwyer said. "I know I've been practicing quite a bit, and Ervin's not happy about being a 1-technique (nose guard). He doesn't like being double-teamed every single play. But that's something I've come to accept and enjoy."

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