LAWRENCE (AP) — There is a reason Kansas’ schedule is one of the toughest in the nation: Each team Kansas has faced has been undefeated at kickoff.
The combined record is 21-0, with Saturday’s foe, No. 12 Kansas State, being one of 10 remaining unbeaten teams in the FBS with a 6-0 record. Defensive coordinator Vic Shealy said the difficult stretch started with Northern Illinois and it hasn’t become any easier.
“Go back to the Northern Illinois, you have a guy at quarterback that’s one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the country, and an offense that virtually had everybody back, that scored 38 points a game and won 11 ball games,” Shealy said. “They were undefeated coming in, be it 1-0, but they thrashed Army. Now you’re playing Georgia Tech, one of the favorites to win the ACC. So you played them when they were undefeated. Then you come back to play Texas Tech and they’re undefeated.”
The Big 12 boasts three of the remaining undefeated teams: No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 6 Oklahoma State and Kansas State. It just so happens that Kansas has played two of those three and will take on the third in an 11 a.m. kickoff on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence.
“I think that’s what it speaks for is that this conference is very good, very talented and I’m proud to still be a part of it,” said coach Turner Gill, a former star at Nebraska.
His quarterback, Jordan Webb doesn’t see the schedule as a negative, but a positive.
“It’s definitely not an easy schedule that we have,” Webb said. “We’re playing some really good teams, but we feel we’re going to be able to compete with those guys because we have the talent, the coaches and guys that are going to make big plays.”
Kansas’ nonconference schedule prepared it for conference play, but the team hasn’t seen the results it wanted. It’s played four top-10 offenses the last four weeks, dating to Georgia Tech on Sept. 17. Georgia Tech, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma have hurry-up offenses, which makes it difficult on the defense.
Each of those teams scored 45 points or more.
“Our guys are making tackles and they’re getting up and you will see, not a dead-out sprint, but we’re talking about a concerted running effort just to get lined out,” Shealy said.
Kansas State plays fast when it hikes the ball, but it takes its time calling a play. This will allow Shealy to make substitutions and give some of his players a breather.
“It is hard sometimes to run one guy on for one guy because they’re going that fast, sometimes the guy coming off barely gets off the field before the ball is snapped,” Shealy said.
He’s concerned about making a substitution with no-huddle offenses, particularly when the ball is further down away from the sideline, around the 20 or 25-yard line and farther, where players have a long run.
He said Kansas State’s huddle system is different in that it will run off most of the entire clock and see how the defense is lined up.
“(Quarterback Collin Klein) is going to be able to control multiple plays at the line of scrimmage and then be able to check to a play that fits their game plan,” Shealy said. “This is why I respect Klein so much is he holds a lot of cards close to his vest then he gets to the line of scrimmage, then can play whatever hand he wants to deal, he can pull the card based on how you look. Some of the no-huddle teams don’t ask their quarterback to make a lot of reads at the line of scrimmage. They just simply run the play, based on what the coach in the press box tells them to run.”
He said people look at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State as the two fastest teams in the conference because they can really go. He watches Kansas State on tape and sees it just as fast. He thinks people compare teams to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State too much right now.
While the stretch has been difficult on Shealy and the defense, he takes the losses very hard, just like the players do.
“It takes a little bit of your soul away. I think we’re not much different in that makeup than any other program,” Shealy said.
Shealy is a believer that very little good comes out of a loss. He said that the teams Kansas is playing are coming in without the doubt of how it feels to lose.
“There’s a habit that’s been formed and we’re trying to get to get to that point in our program,” Shealy said.