Weis looks for answers about future after loss to Mountaineers

Morgantown, W. Va. — When Charlie Weis stepped to the podium in the Anderson Family Football Complex last December as Kansas’ newest head coach, he asked a question about football in the state of Kansas: Why was Kansas State so successful and why wasn’t Kansas?

At the time, Kansas had gone 2-10 and Kansas State 10-2. Almost a year to the day and following a 59-10 defeat at West Virginia, the Jayhawks are 1-11, and the Wildcats are 11-1 — with a Heisman candidate running their offense. But over that year, Weis found his answer.

“It has a lot to do with recruiting,” Weis said. “If you look at the makeup of rosters, you’ll see there’s one glaring statistic that comes out with where everyone came from.”

Weis was referring to junior college transfers. Kansas State has more than 30 on its roster.  Kansas has about half as many, but Weis intends to change that.

In the meantime, Weis tried taking things one step at a time. He set the bar at  being competitive in the Big 12 for Kansas, but against West Virginia, the Jayhawks were anything but.

The Mountaineers took control of the game on the first drive, when quarterback Geno Smith fired a 45-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage. A few goal line stops later, Andrew Buie walked into the end zone for the Mountaineers first touchdown.

And that was before Tavon Austin took over.

The Jayhawks had talked about the quickness and speed they saw from Austin on film, and Saturday, they got to see it in person.

It seemed no matter what angle the Jayhawks took to get to the elusive Austin, he was able to avoid being tackled. He finished the day with 110 receiving yards and racked up 77 yards on the ground.

“He reminds me of Tony Pierson, but he has another gear to him,” Senior safety Bradley McDougald said. “Every Big 12 team that he went against had trouble tackling him, and we had trouble as well.”

But Austin wasn’t the only problem. Senior quarterback Geno Smith connected on 23 of his 24 pass attempts, gaining more than 400 yards through the air, while Kansas completed only seven of its 16 passes. The Jayhawks simply couldn’t keep up.

It was a long way from the competitiveness that Kansas had shown it was capable of. McDougald said it was a tale of two teams. The Jayhawks lost five games this year by 10 points or less, they also lost six games by 14 points or more.

“At times, we were going to the wire with Texas, and at times, we got blown out by Iowa State,” McDougald said. “We were a great home team for the majority of the season.”

But what will it take for the Jayhawks to put up a fight against every Big 12 team?

“Recruiting, players buying into the system and work,” McDougald said.

It echoes what Weis said — and what he’ll spend the next week or so doing while the Jayhawks prepare for finals.

Eighty miles down the road, Kansas State is preparing for a BCS bowl game. In an isolated town, coach Bill Snyder found the formula to build a successful football program in Kansas. Now Weis, is going out to create the Pepsi to Synder’s Coca-Cola.

“Kansas State is a disciplined team,” running back James Sims said. “If you are a team that’s like that, no matter who you are, you can win a lot of ball games.”

Against West Virginia, the Jayhawks didn’t show the discipline necessary to  win the ball game. They were chasing Smith and Austin all around the field, getting burned the majority of the time. Yet the mindset of competitiveness still hovers over the Kansas locker room.

That notion of being competitive isn’t going anywhere, but it’s certainly getting altered.  Weis was brought to Lawrence to win games. Just being able to slug it out won’t cut it.

“When you first get to the point where you get them to start fighting, that’s a good thing,” Weis said. “But fighting and winning are two totally different things. We made up a lot of ground during the year, but you look at the product today and that’s not anywhere near good enough.”

  • Updated Dec. 2, 2012 at 9:05 pm
  • Edited by Andrew Ruszczyk
  • http://www.facebook.com/mel.gregory Mel Gregory

    I suspect that many of us KU fans are feeling better about the team even after the bad record. Weis is doing much to lay the foundation. I tire of sports writers who have the answer for everything. Perhaps they need to strap on the pads and get on the field.