LAWRENCE — Kansas coach Charlie Weis was drenched, as if he’d just jumped in Potter’s Lake himself — the pond just up the hill from Memorial Stadium where the goalposts ended up.
It was a celebration two years in the making for Weis, whose back arched and face twisted into a shivering smile Saturday after the ice water was poured over his head in the waning seconds of a 31-19 victory over West Virginia — one that ended the Jayhawks’ 27-game Big 12 losing streak.
One that may finally have validated the progress he’s made with the program.
“Psychologically it is a very, very big uplift for our players,” Weis said Monday. “When guys get used to losing, it doesn’t matter how hard you played, and nothing good happens, it wears old on you after a while. It was a big lift for our players in program.”
It was a big lift for everyone with ties to Kansas (3-7, 1-6), even those who long ago turned their attention to their second-ranked men’s basketball team.
The Jayhawks hadn’t beaten a Big 12 foe since a 52-45 win over Colorado in 2010. So maybe the several thousand fans that poured out of the stands and celebrated with the team at midfield should be forgiven for celebrating a bit. Maybe those who tugged down the goalposts, carried them past the campanile and deposited them in the pond should get a free pass.
Weis is certainly willing to give it to them.
“I’m the type of guy that believes the football team should be part of the student body. To have the players with the students, it was a little bit unexpected for them to be out there,” Weis said, “but having them intertwined with the students, my enjoyment really comes from when they have enjoyment. There were a lot of happy faces out there.”
It wasn’t a fluke victory, either. It was one that the Jayhawks earned.
James Sims ran for a career-best 211 yards and three touchdowns. Freshman quarterback Montell Cozart made enough plays to feel optimistic about his future. And the Kansas defense kept turning back the Mountaineers every time they threatened to make it a game in the closing minutes.
“Our defense all year long has played good enough for us to have a chance to win some games,” Weis said. “What has cost us the most is the inefficiency to score on offense.”
The Jayhawks still only managed 376 yards of total offense, but they tied a season-high for points that they set in a season-opening win over lower-division South Dakota. In fact, their 31 points were the most over an FBS opponent since an overtime loss to Texas Tech last November.
“We prepared well,” Sims said. “It obviously sunk in knowing we weren’t going to a bowl game, so we just wanted to treat the last three games that we have coming up as our bowl season.
“We just took down West Virginia, so that’s one,” Sims said. “Now we’ve got to go to Ames, Iowa, and get a win up there and it make it number two.”
Yes, it’s not so far-fetched to think that a program that lost 27 consecutive conference games spanning two different head coaches could suddenly put together a winning streak.
The Jayhawks’ victory coupled with Iowa State’s blowout loss to Oklahoma left the Cyclones (1-9, 0-7) as the only winless team in the Big 12. Kansas visits them on Saturday night with a chance to pick up its first Big 12 road win since Oct 4, 2008.
“Having won that game really helps us going forward to this next game,” Weis said. “The next thing to do is win on the road. This is our last opportunity for this year to try and make that happen. Then you come home and play Kansas State who has been whipping us pretty good as of late and get an opportunity to do something about that, too.
“We still have an opportunity to get rid of things still on the list to change the program.”