LAWRENCE — Charlie Weis’ weekly news conference had already descended to a pretty weird place, and that before Weis suggested that Kansas might build a statue for him outside Memorial Stadium if the Jayhawks can win their last four football games and finish 6-6.
This was Tuesday afternoon, just three days after Kansas had dropped to 2-6 overall and 0-5 in the Big 12 after a 35-13 loss to Texas. It was the Jayhawks’ 26th straight Big 12 loss. And like many things in the world of Weis, the statue comment was, presumably, a touch of well-timed sarcasm wrapped in a larger point:
“This team will be remembered by what happens in the next four games,” Weis said, echoing a message he gave his team on Sunday. “It will not be remembered by where we are right now.”
Right now, of course, things appear pretty bleak. The Jayhawks, who have lost five straight, will play their third ranked team in four weeks when they travel Saturday to No. 15 Oklahoma State (7-1, 4-1). The schedule has done Kansas no favors, with potentially winnable games against West Virginia and Iowa State coming in the next two weeks. But then again, the Jayhawks haven’t done themselves any favors, either.
While the offense has struggled, averaging just 17 points per game, Weis also points to a trend of game-changing plays in the second half. The scenario is familiar: Kansas stays competitive for a while, maybe until the second half, but then (name that opponent) takes advantage of a KU mistake and the Jayhawks can’t find a way to recover.
It happened against last week, when a fumble by quarterback Jake Heaps helped turn a 14-6 deficit into a 35-13 rout.
“What we have not done a very good job of, collectively, starting with me right on down,” Weis said, “is overcoming those bad things that have happened somewhere in the third quarter.”
This week, Weis says, overcoming those moments will be an emphasis during practice. The idea also led to the first bizarre exchange of Tuesday afternoon, when a reporter asked Weis if a solution to those third-quarter lapses could be serving coffee to players during halftime.
“Coffee?” Weis said. “I have so many sarcastic remarks.”
For the record, Weis says the Jayhawks have an assortment of energy shakes and energy bars in the locker room. But the whole thing did provide a pretty good symbol for the present state of Kansas football. Weis seems like a coach willing to do just about anything to pull Kansas out of its tailspin. (No coffee, though.) And despite the midseason swoon, Weis is still trying to evaluate the big picture.
“(If we finish) 4-8? There’s signs,” Weis said. “5-7? OK, things are better. 6-6? They start building a statue. But that really is the perspective that we’re taking.
“… You could 4-0, you could 0-4, or anywhere in between. But that’s their legacy. Their legacy isn’t where they are two-thirds of the way through the season.”
Receiving update — An ailing receiving corps could receive some reinforcements this week. Weis said injured pass-catchers Tony Pierson, Josh Ford, Rodriguez Coleman and Andrew Turzilli could all be healthy enough to play Saturday against Oklahoma State. Sophomore receiver Tre’ Parmalee, however, will likely miss a “few weeks” after being injured Saturday against Texas, Weis said.
Pierson and Ford are recovering from concussions, while Turzilli missed three straight games after going down against TCU on Oct. 12. Coleman suffered a bruised knee while going down awkwardly last Saturday against Texas. The return of Pierson, who leads KU with 21 catches despite missing most of four games, could provide the largest impact.
Senior Riley Spencer will start at left tackle this week, replacing Pat Lewandowski, while sophomore Damon Martin will start in place of Mike Smithburg at right guard.
2014 schedule — Kansas released its full 2014 football schedule on Tuesday, and the Jayhawks will open the season against Southeast Missouri State on Sept. 6 at Memorial Stadium. KU will travel to Duke on Sept. 13, before playing host to Central Michigan on Sept. 20. The Big 12 opener is against Texas on Sept. 27 in Lawrence, while KU will again finish the season against K-State, this time in Manhattan on Nov. 29.