In the days before his first Sunflower Showdown as a head coach, Kansas’ David Beaty turned to the members of his staff, the men who have played in this in-state rivalry and who understand what the game means.
On Monday, it was defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, who grew up in Lawrence and played for Kansas in the early 1990s. On Tuesday, it was linebacker Kevin Kane, the former Rockhurst standout who played for the Jayhawks during the Mark Mangino era. Each took turn talking to this Kansas team, which sits at 0-11 as the season finale looms.
Among the messages: Forget about the records. It’s time to focus on a rivalry.
“This is a different week,” Beaty said on Tuesday, speaking at his news conference in Lawrence. “I mean, this is a rivalry week. This is K-State week for us. There is a lot at stake here.”
For Kansas, which has suffered through one of the worst seasons in program history, a winless campaign marked by blowout losses and sidelined quarterbacks, this final Saturday offers a chance at redemption. Beat Kansas State, 4-6, for the first time since 2008, and the tenor of a heretofore lost season would be dramatically changed.
The Jayhawks could use the victory as a springboard to the future. Beaty would possess something that his two predecessors — Turner Gill and Charlie Weis — never achieved: A victory over K-State and Bill Snyder.
“I’ve said it before,” Beaty said. “I think it’s one of those deals where whether your 10-0 or 0-11, when you come in, man, it’s rivalry game and everything else needs to go to the wayside. We get to go out there on Saturday and we get to have a good ol’ backyard brawl.”
Recent history, of course, suggests that brawl will be one-sided. The Jayhawks have lost six straight against K-State while being outscored 263-77. And Kansas hasn’t defeated Bill Snyder since 2004, one year before Snyder’s first retirement. For now, though, Beaty is hoping to stem the purple tide as he digs into a rebuilding project in Lawrence. The first opportunity comes on Saturday, which means the history lesson began early this week.
“My job and our job is to make sure that we’ve got our guys are as prepared as we can possibly have them when they walk out there on Saturday,” Beaty said. “And for them to understand the history that is this rivalry.”