Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis was asked earlier this week about the current state of KU football, given the rough first year and the slow start to his second season in charge of the Jayhawks.
Weis, who has experienced ups, downs and everything in between at both the collegiate and NFL levels, said it was far too early to make a concrete statement about where the program was during his tenure because the Jayhawks (2-5 overall, 0-4 Big 12) still have five games remaining.
“I think the most important thing is (to) let the season play out,” Weis said. “Sometimes you have to look at not just how things are going, but how they finish. I could be wrong — I don’t think I’m gonna be wrong — (but) I said all along that I think we’ll be playing our best football at the end of the year, (and) we’ve got five games to go to find out if that’s the case or not.”
During his coaching career, Weis has been a part of a couple of teams who did not have winning records but finished strong and used that to launch into a solid season the following year. He remembers those seasons as fondly as any of the championship runs and hopes that’s what’s ahead for Kansas (2-5 overall, 0-4 Big 12), which faces Texas at 2:30 today at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
“It isn’t exactly like we’ve been playing I-AA (FCS) teams every week here,” Weis said. “It’s just dial ’em up one after another. The Big 12 is a very good league and very good competition, and they’re good football teams. If (we’re) sitting there 2-10 at the end of the year, it’d be tough for me to sit there and (say) that there’s a lot of progress. I’d have a tough time saying it. But that’s not where we intend on being.”
Sigh of relief?
Mighty Texas or not, it seems logical to think that the Kansas defense might feel a little better about the challenge facing it on the other side of the line of scrimmage during today’s game.
Instead of facing a Baylor team averaging 65 points and 714 yards per game, KU will take on a UT squad that is averaging 33 points and 451 yards per outing. But assistant defensive backs coach Scott Vestal cautioned against such thinking.
“Yes and no,” he said. “Baylor is a juggernaut. They really are. But in this league, everybody can play. Every week presents its own unique gems.”
While Baylor’s skill players stole the show during last week’s victory over Kansas, Vestal said the Longhorns’ offensive line could be the star this week.
“We study a lot of teams, and Texas’ offensive line is as improved as any unit in the Big 12,” Vestal said. “Last year, frankly, they were not as good as they are this year. And they’re coming off the ball with bad intentions.”
In addition to having 25 players on its roster from the Lone Star State, this week’s game features some connections in the coaching booth. Darrell Wyatt, who coached wide receivers at Kansas from 1997-99 and again in 2010, is in his third season with the Longhorns. On the Kansas sideline, Vestal, who is in his first season as a full-time assistant, worked as a quality-control coach for defense at UT in 2010.
“I enjoyed my time at Texas,” Vestal said. “They’re classy people down there, and it doesn’t just stop with coach (Mack) Brown. ... Any time you can play people that you have a connection with or you’re close to, it always makes it a little more special.”
Texas owns a 10-2 advantage over Kansas all-time. But while that margin indicates total dominance, there have been a few close calls throughout the years.
Last year, UT escaped Lawrence with a 21-17 victory by scoring a game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds to play. Eight years earlier, in 2004, Mack Brown and the Longhorns barely got out of Lawrence alive following the infamous “BCS, Dollar Signs” game in which former KU coach Mark Mangino went on a postgame rant for the ages about a late call that benefited the unbeaten Longhorns.
Brown is 8-0 all-time against KU, and UT is 5-0 against Kansas in games played in Austin. KU’s only victories in the series came in 1938 and 1901.
Despite logging just one victory by more than 23 points this season — a 56-7 triumph over New Mexico State in the season opener — Texas enters today’s match-up with Kansas as a 28-point favorite.
Three of the Longhorns’ five victories this season have come by 16 points or fewer, and the Jayhawks have lost by 28 or more just twice.
The line opened with Texas as a 27-point favorite and slowly went up throughout the week.