Each week, I’ll check in with the beat writer who covers Oklahoma State’s opponent to get some perspective on the game from the other side.
Matt Tait covers Kansas for the Lawrence Journal-World. Here’s our exchange:
Gina Mizell: Charlie Weis’ comments about not practicing his seniors on Sunday obviously spread pretty rapidly. Has he already written off this season? Or how is he balancing handling the present and future of this program? Do you see positive strides being made in certain areas, despite the continued struggles?
Matt Tait: No, not at all. That whole deal got blown out of proportion. The seniors did the exact same thing they do every Sunday, lift, run, watch film and recover. The only thing that changed was that the underclassmen who usually join them in that routine actually hit the practice field with the guys who didn’t play. It’s all about getting better and doing it that way is all about doing that with the guys who will still be here next year.
As for the positive strides question, this team is definitely better than we’ve seen during the past two seasons. They make fewer mistakes, play harder, line up right and are well-coached. That’s to say nothing of the improvements and accountability/discipline that has been brought back to the program off the field. This team is far from flawless and still has a long way to go, but in terms of those areas, they’re much-improved from a year ago.
GM: With all that said, it sounds like Weis could switch some personnel around this weekend. What are some moves we could see?
MT: I think you’ll see quite a few younger guys — redshirt freshmen and inexperienced sophomores — getting a shot earlier in the ballgame. Weis talked a lot this week about wanting to see what he’s got in those guys and wanting to see it when the game is still in doubt. I don’t think they’ll play a ton but I’m guessing the snaps they do get will come in the first or second quarter.
GM: There was a lot of talk leading up to OSU’s game against Texas about if the Longhorns were really preparing to face both OSU quarterbacks–J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt. How are the Jayhawks approaching the Cowboys’ QB situation?
MT: By crossing their fingers. Not knowing who they’re going to see has made it a tough week, since Lunt and Walsh are different players. They’ve prepared for both of them and they recognize that both are talented players. I think the thing they’re banking on is that the supporting cast around these guys is so talented that it doesn’t really matter who the quarterback is because they still have to focus on stopping the other guys, most notably Joseph Randle. That’s not to say they’re not worried about the QBs, more that they’re trying not to let the unknown overwhelm them.
GM: In your mind, what is the matchup to watch?
MT: KU’s running game against the Oklahoma State defense. If the Jayhawks can run the ball, which they’ve done very well this season — even against K-State and TCU — I think they’ll be able to control the clock and keep that dangerous OSU offense off the field. If KU can’t run and the Cowboys force Weis to turn to the pass, it could get ugly, although I don’t think we’ll see anything close to what we saw last year in Stillwater — maybe ever again. Wow!
GM: What needs to happen for KU to score a huge upset?
MT: The recipe’s pretty simple for KU these days — they have to get a couple of breaks. Maybe a turnover or two, maybe a big special teams play, maybe a bonehead play by the Cowboys. Whatever it is, they need to get some help. Again, if they run the ball well, force a couple of turnovers and deliver on some of these trick plays and creative concepts that Weis has vowed will become a more regular thing as the season stretches on, I think the Jayhawks will have a shot to hang around for a while.