LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) The first order of business for Kansas after a lackluster loss at Duke last week was to learn from its myriad of mistakes.
That took, oh, about a full afternoon.
By supper time, Kansas coach Charlie Weis was already on Central Michigan.
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”Everyone knows that this is a critical game because now you go into the Big 12 stretch that we’re about to go into,” Weis said, ”and I’m not even worrying about any of those games right now.
”I think this kind of sets the table, sets the table either way,” he said, ”sets the table well or it doesn’t, sets the table where you’re really, really fighting an uphill battle.”
Besides, who wants to relive the disaster in Durham?
A similar story unfolded this week at Central Michigan, which had been riding high after a win over Purdue. The Chippewas (2-1) proceeded to get pounded by Syracuse, and will try to get back on track against Kansas on Saturday before starting Mid-American Conference play.
”Obviously we were disappointed, but you only have 24 hours to be happy with a win or mad with a loss,” Central Michigan offensive lineman Andy Phillips said. ”We remember the feeling we had in the locker room (after Syracuse) and that’s something we don’t want to feel again.”
This could be a make-or-break game for Weis, who has yet to show much progress in his first two seasons in Lawrence. The Jayhawks (1-1) struggled to beat Southeast Missouri State in their opener, and they managed just a field goal in a 41-3 loss to the Blue Devils.
The road doesn’t get any easier after Saturday, either. The Jayhawks open up against Texas, play resurgent West Virginia and then get Oklahoma State to start conference play.
Hence, the importance on building some momentum against Central Michigan.
”I think if you go out there and play really well against a good, physical team and win the game,” Weis said, ”I think that you’ll be really encouraged going into the next one.”
Here are other things to watch about Saturday’s matchup.
NO RAWLS: Central Michigan remains without star running back Thomas Rawls, who is charged with three felonies in connection with an April theft. He had 155 yards rushing and two touchdowns against the Boilermakers. ”When someone’s not here, I think it’s more of, `OK, next man’s got to step up,”’ Chippewas coach Dan Enos said. ”Last week we didn’t do that without some guys.”
POUND THE ROCK: Even without Rawls in the backfield, the Jayhawks figure Central Michigan will try to establish the run. Makes sense, too. Duke freshman Shaun Wilson ran for 245 yards and three touchdowns against them last week. ”They’re going to try to run the ball as much as they can and then try to pass off it,” Kansas defensive back Cassius Sendish said. ”They’re physical.”
COUNTERING COZART: Central Michigan was hurt by Syracuse’s Terrel Hunt, a dual-threat quarterback. The Jayhawks have a similar player in Montell Cozart. ”He’s big, got a strong arm, and he can move,” Enos said. ”And I thought the young man from Syracuse played very well and we didn’t do enough things to disrupt him. We need to do a better job this week of that.”
SPEAKING OF COZART: The sophomore will be trying to bounce back from a miserable showing against the Blue Devils. He was 11 of 27 for 89 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. ”Every quarterback goes through it,” Cozart said. ”I feel like that doesn’t define me. Just moving forward, not trying to dwell on last week.”
GETTING DEFENSIVE: After giving up 41 points to Duke last week, Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen came to the defense of his guys this week. ”Were there bright spots in the game? Yes,” he said. ”I was proud of the way the kids fought the entire game. I thought we had a lot of guys give good efforts. Our players are a good bunch to be around and they are hard workers. We have to continue to coach them the best possible way we can to give them a chance.”