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Archive for Friday, September 30, 2005

Jayhawks find new challenges on road

September 30, 2005

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Those boarding an airplane in the Kansas University-Texas Tech football series more often than not fly the friendly skies home a little happier.

Since the Big 12 Conference was formed a decade ago, the Jayhawks and Red Raiders have battled five times. The road team has won four of those meetings.

In that perspective, history is on KU's side heading into Saturday's 6 p.m. tilt at Jones SBC Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. But for every trend in KU's favor, there's one or two against it - such as the Jayhawks' 1-11 conference road mark under Mark Mangino, or 1-7 overall mark against Texas Tech all-time.

Whatever the case, adjusting to life on the road would be a good idea for the Jayhawks in the month of October - the next four games are away from Memorial Stadium, and with that come factors KU didn't face during the nonconference portion of the schedule.

"It's getting adjusted to the crowd noise and the audibles," wide receiver Mark Simmons said. "Routine plays a big factor, because when you play three straight home games, you go away from the same routine you do every week. It's really a factor for the new guys who haven't played on the road in a Big 12 atmosphere."

Like most weeks preparing for a conference road game, the KU coaching staff held practice Wednesday at Memorial Stadium, put in an annoying CD of Texas Tech fight songs and crowd noise and cranked up the volume on the stadium's loudspeakers. It could be heard on the other side of campus - much like a hostile Texas football crowd on a Saturday.

"Anything to distract our players like you're going to get on the road is beneficial," Mangino said. "You have to have your communication all set up and everything before you get to the game."

Surely, the constant loud noise did its part. Though Jones SBC Stadium holds 30,000 fewer fans than the venues at Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, KU senior Banks Floodman called Tech's home field one of the "craziest" in the Big 12. He'd be the only Jayhawk with an idea - no one else on the 2005 team suited up in 2001, when KU beat Tech, 34-31, in double overtime the last time Kansas was down there.

Though the plane flight, hotel room and surrounding atmosphere will be different in Lubbock than in Lawrence, the big difference, most players agreed, would be the lack of KU fans. It certainly is noticeable when 50,000 fans are cheering against you for a change.

"You just got to go in and try to keep your mental edge as far as when the crowd does erupt or whatever," linebacker Brandon Perkins said. "You've got to stay focused."

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