LAWRENCE — New coach, new quarterback, new attitude — and the same kind of early season loss to a middling opponent that got Turner Gill fired last season.
Now, it’s up to Charlie Weis, Dayne Crist and everyone else in the Kansas program to prove these aren’t the same ‘ol Jayhawks — that their late-game collapse Saturday against Rice isn’t a precursor of struggles yet to come, beginning this weekend against Big 12 newcomer TCU.
“I don’t think that mentality has resonated within the team,” said Crist, the quarterback who transferred in from Notre Dame to play his final season with Weis.
“I think the football culture has changed from what it was,” Crist said Tuesday. “We’re sitting here 1-1. It’s not the end of the season. We’re incredibly upset that we didn’t get that last game, but we’ve moved on. We’re on the next one.”
The problem for Kansas is the next one isn’t any easier.
No. 16 TCU (1-0) comes in for its first true Big 12 game having made a mockery in recent years of teams from the same league. Among its victims: Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas Tech and Iowa State.
After that, the path doesn’t get a whole lot better. The Jayhawks visit Northern Illinois for their only non-conference road game, and then dive back into Big 12 play against 15th-ranked Kansas State, which has beaten Kansas by a combined 116-28 over the past two seasons.
“We’ve got 10 left and that’s all we’re promised,” Crist said. “We’re excited to get out there against TCU, because that’s all that matters this week.”
Still, Crist acknowledged that it took some time to get over Saturday’s loss to Rice.
The Jayhawks were leading 24-13 with the ball in the third quarter, but their drive fizzled and Ron Doherty missed a 53-yard field-goal attempt short and left. The missed opportunity not only gave Rice good field position, but it also seemed to deflate the entire team.
Rice answered with a field goal of its own, and then tacked on a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The Owls’ 2-point try was no good, but Crist promptly threw an interception with less than 5 minutes to go, giving the visitors one last chance.
Chris Boswell’s 45-yard field goal as time expired gave them the victory.
“I let them be in the tank Saturday night, because I was in it, too,” Weis said bluntly. “But by Sunday morning after watching tape, meeting with the staff, getting with the players, going out and practicing — the best medicine in sports is to go out there and play again.”
Kansas has downed plenty of medicine in recent history.
Going back to the era of Terry Allen in the late 1990s, the Jayhawks routinely lost to teams they were expected to beat. Even after Mark Mangino took over the program, the coach that would eventually lead the program to the Orange Bowl was stung by UNLV and Bowling Green.
The most deflating performances came the past two seasons under Gill.
Mangino had been fired and Gill was coaching his first game when North Dakota State, a program from the Football Championship Subdivision, waltzed into Memorial Stadium and headed back home with a 9-6 victory every bit as ugly as the final score.
Gill’s teams were also spanked by Southern Mississippi, and looked less-than-dominant in wins over New Mexico State and McNeese State, two programs that shouldn’t have posed much problem.
Little wonder that many Kansas fans are asking whether anything has changed.
“I don’t really listen to the outside stuff,” said Crist, who has perhaps shouldered an unfair burden since his arrival in Lawrence. “The pressure I was feeling is what I was putting on myself. I’ve always been internally motivated. I just have to go out and let it loose.”
So do the rest of the Jayhawks.
“I let them sulk for Saturday night and then Sunday we were back to work,” Weis said. “It’s good doing that because by the time Sunday night comes, they’re already moving on. That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. That doesn’t mean it’s OK. But you’re moving on.”
Big 12 Conference Schedule
11 a.m. — TCU at Kansas, FX
11 a.m. — Louisiana-Lafayette at Oklahoma State, FSN
3:30 p.m. — James Madison at West Virginia
6 p.m. — North Texas at Kansas State, FSN
6 p.m. — Sam Houston State at Baylor
6 p.m. — New Mexico at Texas Tech
7 p.m. — Western Illinois at Iowa State
8:15 p.m. — Texas at Mississippi, ESPN