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Woeful Kansas looking for answers

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Charlie Weis made it perfectly clear this week what he's concerned about regarding his Kansas football team's game with West Virginia.

And it's not the Mountaineers.

"Every week I come in and talk about the opponent and spend 15 minutes talking about them,'' Weis said right off the bat in his weekly press conference on Tuesday. "I would rather talk about our guys. I'd rather talk about us.''

Good move? Bad move? Well, at this stage of the game, does it really matter?

The fact is, the Kansas team that Weis coaches and West Virginia plays on Saturday in Lawrence, Kan., has been just awful. And it's not short-term awful, either.

Yes, the Jayhawks have beaten only South Dakota and Louisiana Tech this season and are a twisted sort of perfect at 0-6 in Big 12 play. But the problems go back way before this season.

Since starting the 2009 season 5-0 (after going 12-1 and 8-5 the two years prior to that), Kansas is 8-44. Three of those eight wins were against FCS schools. The Jayhawks' losing streak against Big 12 opponents stands at 27. KU is 2-40 in its last 42 games against schools from automatic qualifier BCS conferences.

The point here, of course, is not to further disparage Kansas football. That pretty much speaks for itself.

No, the point is that if Weis figures that essentially eschewing any concern over opponents in favor of simply concentrating on his own flailing team, well, why not?

After all, nothing else has seemed to work.

"I think we're at the stage in the year where I'm putting all my focus, all my energy, into the last three games of the season starting with this one. Every bit of juice that I have is going into this game,'' Weis said. "And I think I'm more concerned with our players than I am with theirs.

"They're obviously coming off a disheartening loss where they had Texas, a top team, beat. But you have a late fourth-down conversion and a late field goal, then end up losing in overtime. It was a disheartening loss. They played really well. But with that being said, they're coming in at 11 o'clock in the morning [Central time] and I can't spend too much time worrying about them and their troops. I'm just worried about mine."

Of course, coaches who talk about worrying about their own team at the expense of the next opponent are fairly common. It's the ultimate in coachspeak, right up there with taking them one game at a time and blaming every misstep on a lack of execution.

(Just as an aside, all of those clichés are born of truth, but do you really have to keep saying them? I've never seen a team play two others at a time, if every play is executed perfectly it goes for a touchdown and no one wins without worrying more about his team than the other.)

Weis, though, seems to be shaking things up just a bit more than normal. For instance, when the Jayhawks began workouts this week on Tuesday, they remade the practice periods and scrapped their special teams work. It's not that the special teams don't need the work, but ...

"You have to get them out of a routine,'' Weis said. "Routines can be good and routines can be bad. We are trying any little thing that you could use to just try to do something different.''

In passing on special teams work for a day, Weis figures the offense and defense won't be distracted.

"During the practice you go to the special teams portion of practice and there's a lot of guys involved in that and some guys are not involved at all,'' he said. "And now you got some guys all lathered up and ready to go and now they're standing on the sidelines while the special teams are going on. Or they're walking through the offensive and defensive line and going through walk-through stuff and they just got the juices flowing.''

Again, changing things up is nothing new. Dana Holgorsen is presumably doing the same thing in West Virginia's practices, although the secret nature of those is, as a matter of routine, akin to NSA eavesdropping - you only find out by accident.

"I'll try and do something different to put ourselves over the hump,'' Holgorsen said this week. What that might be is anyone's guess.

What Weis is doing is only a bit more open. He could easily be using that extra time with his offense to more or less install a new one. Who knows? It wouldn't be anything unusual. Remember, this is "schematic advantage Charlie'' here, he of the thousands of X's and O's. None of the tricks have worked yet, but you know there are plenty more in the bag.

"This is what I do on Saturday nights when you're sleeping,'' Weis said, tongue nowhere near cheek. "I try to figure out what can I do, how can I do it. Give me something different that I can do. Because I think that when you lose, and you accept it and you stand pat, that's never a good thing.

"I think that anyone who's driven, in whatever business you're in, when things don't go well you've got two ways to handle it. One way you say, 'Oh, well.' And the other way is you try to find another way to do it. I'm always looking for that other way."

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

 


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