Jayhawks hope experience, preparation mitigate challenges of playing at Texas

photo by: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Kansas running back Daniel Hishaw Jr. (20) is tackled by BYU linebacker Ace Kaufusi during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Lawrence. Kansas won 38-27.

Kansas running back Daniel Hishaw Jr. said Wednesday that practicing with pumped-in crowd noise hurts his head.

That is clearly a price the Jayhawks are willing to play as they await a six-digit quantity of screaming fans when they face Texas at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium this Saturday.

“We didn’t even bring it up,” offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki said. “They’re like, ‘Hey, we need the music more, we need more crowd noise in practice.’ It’s awesome. So they want it. As a teacher, I’m so proud because when they start thinking about those kinds of details, you know that there’s experience that is coming to play there.”

Quarterback Jalon Daniels compared getting used to playing on the road to getting used to running inside zone — it’s a concept they’ve become very much accustomed to. But it’s always a challenge all the same, and so they deafen themselves and everyone in the vicinity of the Anderson Family Football Complex with noise blaring from speakers, “like you guys see in Colorado,” Daniels said Wednesday in reference to a recent video of Deion Sanders’ Buffaloes undergoing a similar process.

The tall task of playing well at DKR — in front of an expected six times as many away fans as the Jayhawks faced in Nevada two weeks earlier — provides just one more layer of adversity, on top of having to deal with the highly talented third-ranked Longhorns: Defensive coordinator Brian Borland said of Texas’ offense Wednesday, “I think they’re good everywhere, so you can’t really find a weakness for them.”

The disruption of going on the road is mitigated somewhat by the overall continuity of the KU roster, coaches and players said. While head coach Lance Leipold has won just two of nine conference road games during his KU tenure (albeit with one coming in Austin), the experience means that players are well acquainted with the challenges they’ll face in such an environment.

“Yeah, there’s a good majority of that offense and defense,” Leipold said Monday, “like the back seven, except Craig (Young)’s never been there but he’s been through his time … We’re creatures of habit, and as long as we can stay in good routines I think they have a chance to prepare to get ready for kickoff.”

As Kotelnicki put it, they know the process of going bus to plane to bus to hotel to meetings to dinner.

“It’s not new,” he said. “It’s not a bunch of guys always checking their schedules, ‘What do we got tonight?'”

The intense heat expected in Austin — it should be about 95 degrees for the Saturday afternoon kickoff — could throw another spanner in the works, but the Jayhawks already rotate a variety of personnel on both sides of the ball, particularly at skill positions and on the defensive line, as part of the “multiplicity” that Borland and Kotelnicki preach. Kotelnicki added that the fact that it’s “stinking hot” in Lawrence over the summer helps prepare players for such conditions.

“We’re not any more concerned than we are when we’re playing our first games and practices,” he said, “and how we go about training our guys and making sure they’re healthy and hydrating and all that kind of stuff.”

Borland noted that they played about 25 guys on defense against BYU.

“We’re going to need all those guys,” he said, “and I think it’s going to be hot, but it’s going to be hot for (Texas) too.”

The Jayhawks essentially want to minimize the impact of all such external factors via their preparation and get down to business.

“We don’t really get into the outside world,” linebacker Cornell Wheeler said, “the adversity, so we’re just going to line up, you know what I mean, play football.”

This story has been updated to reflect that Leipold is 2-7 in conference road games during his KU tenure.


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