The tape was revealing. In the days after a 34-28 victory over Southeast Missouri State in the season opener, Kansas football coach Charlie Weis began showing his players some film of Duke.
There were specific takeaways — like how the Jayhawks may exploit Duke’s secondary — but the most important parts were psychological.
“I think that our players have visual evidence on tape,” Weis said, “that they have a legitimate chance of winning.”
The implication from this statement, of course, is that this has not always been the case. Kansas has lost 24 straight road games, and sometimes the film room can be a sobering place. During Weis’ first two years at Kansas, the Jayhawks would sometimes look at tape and know: A victory would require crafting a miracle performance.
“They should go down there with the anticipation of winning the game,” Weis said, “not just hoping to win.”
This sort of Weisian confidence is not new, but it perhaps comes with more substance this season. But the question remains: Is KU really ready to go on the road and beat a team that won 10 games last year?
Even for a football program like Kansas, some things are not supposed to happen. Losing streaks happen, sure, but 24 straight losses on the road? How about 27 consecutive defeats away from Memorial Stadium — including three neutral site games? How do you explain five years without a road victory?
“An eternity,” Weis said.
During the last four seasons, the rest of the Big 12 won road games 55.6 percent of the time. Even Iowa State, a program that has seen its share of struggles, is 5-11 in true road games during the same period. Using Iowa State’s record as a reference, the odds of a 24-game road losing streak are close to 0.01 percent. But as Kansas, 1-0, prepares to travel to Duke for a 2:30 p.m. matchup on Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium, the numbers and odds are mostly immaterial.
“It’s obviously part of the story right now,” KU offensive coordinator John Reagan said. “Really, to win on the road, you have to do the same things you do at home — just better. You have to execute, but you have to execute at a little higher level of consistency.”
For the Jayhawks, that means taking the good from a victory over Southeast Missouri — namely a 24-0 lead — and trying to extrapolate the performance over four quarters. It will not be easy against Duke, which played in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game last season, but the Jayhawks believe they have the formula to do it.
“As a team,” sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart said, “just staying and playing four quarters. I’m sure everyone has been talking about it. But this week, we’ve been looking forward to it.
“On paper, we feel good.”
Kansas at Duke
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C.
TV: Fox Sports KC plus (AT&T U-verse: 693 and 1693; DirecTV: 671-1; Dish: 441, 9579 and 412-29; Time Warner: 5 and 324; Comcast: 261 or 863; Consolidated: 54 and 696)
Other story lines
▪ THE OPTION ATTACK: During Kansas’ 34-28 victory over Southeast Missouri State, the Jayhawks ran the option to great success in the first half. Sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart can be an effective runner, and running backs Corey Avery and De’Andre Mann took advantage of the opportunities. KU offensive coordinator John Reagan is a disciple of option football, so while his offense is spread based, the Jayhawks can do some damage with the option. During the second half, Southeast Missouri State seemed to adjust. How much will Kansas go to it against Duke?
▪ CAN KU PRESSURE THE QUARTERBACK? Defensive end Ben Goodman recorded the Jayhawks’ only sack in the season opener, and the defensive front failed to put much pressure on Southeast Missouri State quarterback Kyle Snyder. If Kansas wants to upset Duke, the Jayhawks will need to find a way to get after Duke quarterback Anthony Boone, who is throwing for 257.5 yards per game. Last season, Kansas finished 82nd in the country in sacks, averaging 1.75 per game.
▪ THE REMATCH: Kansas defeated Duke 44-16 in Lawrence in 2009, the first game ever between the two programs. Todd Reesing scorched the Duke defense for 338 yards passing and three touchdowns. This is the return game for the home-and-home series — and the first game will have little bearing on the second. Duke coach David Cutcliffe was in his second season at Duke, while KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen and offensive coordinator John Reagan were both assistants at KU. Bowen and Reagan said earlier this week it was unlikely they could glean much from the first Duke game.