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Rice provides opportunity for Jayhawks

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Sep. 10, 2013, at 9:44 p.m.

— It would certainly be easy for Kansas football coach Charlie Weis to shuffle in the revenge card this week as Kansas prepares to travel to Rice on Saturday.

You might recall that it was just a year ago, almost to the day, that Rice handed KU a stinging 25-24 loss at Memorial Stadium. The Jayhawks coughed up a 24-13 lead in the fourth quarter. Rice kicker Chris Boswell drilled a game-winning field goal in the final seconds. After the collapse, KU didn’t win again.

But the way Weis sees it, there’s no use seeking payback when the wounds were mostly self-inflicted.

“I don’t talk about getting revenge for what they did, because we were the ones that blew it,” Weis said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “They deserved to win because we didn’t close out the game. We didn’t close out on offense when we had a comfortable lead. We didn’t close out on defense when we had a chance to hold it.”

For Weis, the idea of revenge should take a backseat to some other areas that need attention. And those areas don’t include the fact that KU hasn’t won a road game in nearly four years — a 19-game losing streak that dates back to a victory over UTEP on Sept. 12, 2009. In Kansas time, that’s two head coaches ago. So you can understand if Weis is a little more concerned with the here and now.

The here, in this case, is a Rice offense that put up 509 yards in a 52-31 loss to Texas A&M in its season opener. The Owls were playing against something of a patchwork defense in College Station, with Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin suspending a handful of starters, but the offensive numbers are close to what Rice put up a season ago.

Guided by offensive coordinator John Reagan, a former KU assistant under Mark Mangino, Rice averaged 31.8 points and 414 yards per game in 2012. And the Owls return quarterback Taylor McHargue, a dual-threat weapon who runs a spread system that would look right at home next to the spread schemes in the Big 12.

“They mix up tempo and have a balanced run-pass (breakdown),” KU linebackers coach Clint Bowen said. “Everyone wants to think that the spread offense is just throwing it all over the yard when it’s a little bit deceiving. A lot of those teams run the ball very well, and Rice ran the ball (306 yards against Texas A&M).”

On the whole, KU’s defense looked improved last week against South Dakota, holding a team under 300 total yards for the first time in three years. KU integrated eight new starters into the defense, including an entirely new secondary. But Weis was still concerned with how KU defended the quarterback run-game, and containing McHargue’s legs will likely be a focus this week.

For Kansas, this week’s preparation is less about revenge and more about fixing the problems that popped up last year. Last week, KU snapped its 11-game losing streak and finally won. This week, the Jayhawks would like to finally do it on the road.

“For a program, winning last week got the losing streak out of the way,” Weis said. “Winning this week could get the losing on the road out of the way. Winning three weeks from now against Texas Tech could get the conference win out of the way. So there’s steppingstones you have to take to move up here.”

Notes — Junior cornerback Kevin Short, a junior college transfer, is still dealing with “personal issues”, and Weis said he was unsure of his status for Saturday at Rice. Weis added that junior Ty McKinney had moved from defensive tackle to defensive end, a move designed to create more room for junior Marquel Combs at defensive tackle.… Former KU football player Dick Green, who played as a tight end from 1959-61, died on Friday in Lawrence, the school announced Tuesday. Green, a graduate of Pratt High, helped KU to a victory in the Bluebonnet Bowl in 1961.

Reach Rustin Dodd at rdodd@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rustindodd.

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