Kansas’ only conference victory in more than four years came on a Saturday afternoon last November. The success-starved fans spilled out onto the Memorial Stadium turf and tore down the goalposts after the Jayhawks defeated West Virginia 31-19 for their first Big 12 victory since defeating Colorado in 2010.
Nearly 11 months later, Kansas is in a rare position. The Jayhawks return to West Virginia for a 3 p.m. kickoff this afternoon. And for the first time in four years, KU will face a conference opponent it defeated the previous year.
“It’s weird to come into a week knowing you beat a team the previous year,” KU senior left tackle Pat Lewandowski said.
Last year’s game, of course, could have little bearing on the rematch.
Kansas (2-2) is a program in midseason transition after Jayhawks’ defensive coordinator Clint Bowen replaced third-year head coach Charlie Weis on Sunday.
West Virginia (2-2) appears to be on the ascent after backsliding to 4-8 in 2013. The Mountaineers’ only losses have come in competitive games against Alabama and Oklahoma, two teams that could be headed for the College Football Playoff.
One reason for the turnaround: West Virginia is healthy again. Senior quarterback Clint Trickett is guiding a high-powered passing attack, throwing for more than 400 yards per game. Receiver Kevin White has emerged into one of the Big 12’s most potent big-play threats.
“It’s the same show,” Bowen said of the two teams. “It’s just who got better over the course of that year and who’s going to compete this game.”
The Jayhawks have lost 25 straight road games, a streak that dates back to 2009. Two seasons ago, Kansas was humiliated at West Virginia, falling 59-10 in the final game of the season.
“Two years ago, it wasn’t fun,” Lewandowski said. “Last year, it was fun. That was a good game for us. Finally getting that conference win out of the way, that was one of those mental barriers that we had.”
Kansas, which enters today’s game as more than a three-touchdown underdog, will face other mental barriers inside Milan Puskar Stadium. The road losing streak. The first game under a new coach. And the rematch factor.
One year ago, Kansas found a way to take down West Virginia. Now they’ll try to prove it wasn’t an anomaly.
“I think that we’re going to go into every game believing that we’re going to go play the way we practice … and get things done,” Bowen said. “Obviously, it’s in our heads that we did win last year.”
Kansas at West Virginia
When: 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va.
Records: KU 2-2, 0-1 Big 12; WVU 2-2, 0-1
Radio: KFH, 1240-AM, 98.7-FM
TV: FSKC (Cox 34, DirecTV 671, Dish 418, U-Verse 750)