Trip to Ohio likely KU's best shot at breaking road losing streak (41)
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Kansas rolls into Ohio University's Peden Stadium on Saturday having lost a stunning 41 straight road games. The last time the Jayhawks won on the road was Sept. 12, 2009, a 34-7 win over UTEP.
That why Saturday's game against Ohio takes on added importance for Kansas (1-1). A game against a Mid-American Conference team at a 25,000-seat stadium may be the Jayhawks' best chance this season to stop the suffering on the road.
But it sure won't come easy. Ohio (1-1) came up one drive short of winning its conference championship game last year and is picked by many to be back in the final. And Kansas is again just Kansas, perennial Big 12 basement dweller.
Ohio (1-1) played tough but made too many mistakes in a loss to improved Purdue last week, while Kansas (1-1) was thumped at home by another MAC team, Central Michigan. Last year Kansas lost to Ohio at home 37-21.
Incidentally, the longest road losing streak for an NCAA team is 44, set by Western (Colorado) State from 1926-36.
"Somebody is going to break (the streak)," Kansas coach David Beaty said. "Might as well be us. Might as well be this week."
Things to watch:
QUARTERBACK QUANDARY: Ohio coach Frank Solich can't decide on a quarterback.
Sophomore Quinton Maxwell and Nathan Rourke, a junior college transfer from Canada, both played in the first two games, and Solich said this week that he hadn't made a decision yet about his starter for Saturday.
Quarterbacks coach Scott Isphording said he's OK with using both of them.
"I know it sounds like a stock answer, but I really believe I got two really, really good ones," Isphording said.
Rourke played most of the snaps against Purdue and has shown flashes of great potential. The Jayhawks are giving up an average of 318.5 yards per game through the air, so this could be a breakout game for him.
PEYTON STRUGGLING: After looking like Peyton Manning in the season-opening 38-16 win over outmanned Southeast Missouri State, Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender had troubles in last week's game against a (slightly) better opponent.
Bender, a junior college transfer, struggled early against Central Michigan and wasn't accurate. He finished with 323 yards on 32 of 62 passing, with zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
Jayhawks true freshman running back Dom Williams was a bright spot, accounting for two touchdowns on the ground. He led all rushers with 64 yards.
CAN BOBCATS DEFENSE REBOUND? Ohio's defense has shown it is vulnerable to decent passing attacks.
Purdue's David Blough torched the Bobcats for 235 yards and three touchdowns on 11-of-13 passing before giving way to backup Elijah Sindelar. The OU secondary gave up seven plays of 20 yards or more.
"We took bad angles and that certainly causes problems," Solich said. "Normally, our pursuit angles are good, but there were things that popped up for us that have not been a problem in past games and seasons."
It's also important that Kansas have its top receiver Steven Sims back at full speed. Sims battled an ankle injury last week but said he expects to be on the field this week. He is the No. 1 playmaker on offense.
Sims caught four passes for 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the opener against Southeast Missouri State after grabbing 72 passes for a respectable 859 yards and seven TDs last season.
ABOUT OU's GROUND GAME: Ohio has struggled to find consistency running the ball.
The Bobcats have high hopes again for running back A.J. Ouellette, who missed all last year with an injury. He got the ball 11 times against Purdue, scraping out just 38 yards, after rushing for 63 yards against inferior Hampton in the opener.
Meanwhile true freshman Julian Ross made his argument for more playing time with nine carries for 55 yards last week. The Bobcats also are waiting for a breakout game from Dorian Brown, who ran for 825 yards and four TDs last year. He had seven carries for just 25 yards against Purdue.