Jayhawks hope to build on close calls against Texas Tech
By DAVE SKRETTA
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Texas Tech hasn't lost to Kansas in nearly two decades, and the Red Raiders are bringing their high-powered offense into Memorial Stadium to face a defense that gave up 635 yards to West Virginia.
No wonder oddsmakers pegged them a two-touchdown-plus favorite Saturday.
Yet looking deeper, which is what all coaches tend to do, you find that the Jayhawks have played the Red Raiders (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) surprisingly close over the years. Their last meeting in Lawrence came down to the final few minutes, when Texas Tech tacked on a touchdown to secure a 30-20 victory.
The year before? The Red Raiders led 27-21 heading into the fourth quarter of a 34-21 victory.
"We know our struggles there in the past," said Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, whose team has won 10 straight in the series, dating to their pre-Big 12 days. "Last year was a very competitive game up until the end here. So we know what we're getting ourselves into. They've had two weeks to prepare. We'll get their best shot and our players understand that."
The problem for the Jayhawks (1-3, 0-1) is that they've played plenty of teams competitively, only to let things get away from them when the fourth quarter arrives.
In their final game before a bye, a frantic second-half rally against No. 23 West Virginia got them within 42-34 midway through the fourth quarter. But the Mountaineers answered with two more touchdowns in the final minutes to make the outcome appear far more lopsided.
Jayhawks coach David Beaty doesn't believe his team is down, though.
"The one thing that I really thought was good was our guys spent a lot of time together this week," he said. "They've got great chemistry, it's a tight-knit football team, which is good. They're excited and ready to get back on the field and close the deal, close the deal this week.
"Both of us are coming in looking for our first Big 12 win, so it's a big game for both of us."
As the Red Raiders and Jayhawks prepare to meet with an 11 a.m. kickoff, here are some things to know:
BRINGING THE ENERGY
There were only about 15,000 fans in the stadium when the Jayhawks played the Mountaineers in another 11 a.m. kickoff, and deep pockets of empty seats were just about everywhere. That can make it difficult for teams to bring the enthusiasm.
"What we have to do is bring our own energy," Texas Tech wide receiver Dylan Cantrell said. "Probably won't have as many fans at the Kansas game, but that's exactly what we have to do is wake up early, get going, and bring our own energy."
The Jayhawks tried to make their game against the high-powered Mountaineers shorter by running the ball, and Khalil Herbert wound up carrying 36 times for 291 yards and two touchdowns. Expect a similar approach against the Red Raiders and their powerful offense.
"The run game, it's a key fact to passing the ball for any football team," Jayhawks wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. said. "Khalil, Taylor (Martin), those guys are just having good games that opens everything in the offense."
IMPROVEMENT VS IMPROVEMENT
The Red Raiders were last nationally in total defense last year, giving up 554.3 yards per game, but have trimmed that to 407.3 this season. And the Jayhawks were among the worst offensively with 359.5 yards per game last season, but have boosted that to 480.5 this season.
QB VS QB
It's hardly surprising that the Red Raiders' Nic Shimonek is putting up monster numbers, but Jayhawks counterpart Peyton Bender has also had some impressive performances. The biggest difference may be that Bender has thrown seven interceptions to his seven TD passes.
Texas Tech has forced 10 turnovers and committed just three, giving them a plus-seven margin that's among the best in college football.
"It's a tough chore," Beaty said, "because there is so much that goes on offensively that you've got to be able to be sound in some area, then you got to rally and live through some other things, and not give up points while you're doing it."
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Updated October 6, 2017