Why Kansas football's game at Coastal Carolina is a chance to reverse an ugly trend
LAWRENCE — There’s so much that goes into a coach’s game preparation each week, as they analyze the most recent performance and look ahead to what’s next.
For Kansas head football coach Lance Leipold, that includes studying what went right this past week at home against South Dakota ... and what didn’t.
But while the Jayhawks (1-0) have struggled mightily away from home in recent seasons, Leipold isn’t approaching his first road game with any sort of revolutionary changes to address that. While Kansas came into this season with just two wins on the road in the past five years, there hasn’t been any sort of dedicated focus on that topic.
Ahead of his team's road game against No. 19 Coastal Carolina, Leipold is exhibiting confidence ahead of what’s a significant opportunity for the Jayhawks.
"I don’t know how many more things you can do (to prepare)," said Leipold, who won as many road games during the 2020 regular season with Buffalo as Kansas has the past five years. "We use crowd noise and other things as we go through, and we’ll continue. ... I don't know what else we can do."
Both junior safety Kenny Logan Jr. and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Trevor Wilson noticed Leipold is bringing "more juice," as Wilson put it, this week. They can sense a heightened level of energy from him. It's focused on correcting mistakes from the win against the Coyotes and preparing to face the ranked Chanticleers, not dwelling in the past.
Wilson, who’s in his first year with the program after transferring from Buffalo, said the team's past road struggles haven’t been a large topic of conversation. Logan, who’s spent his entire college career with the Jayhawks, doesn’t have an answer as to why those struggles have occurred. And ask redshirt junior quarterback Jason Bean, a transfer from North Texas, or Logan or Wilson, and they’ll all say the preparation for this road game has been pretty similar to what they’ve experienced in the past.
"As a team, I think we can compete," said Wilson when asked what Kansas will need to do in order to be competitive against Coastal Carolina. "They’re a pretty good team. They’re highly ranked. I would say just staying level-headed. Don’t let it get too big, don’t let it get too small, you know? It’s not going to be a pushover game.
"It’s definitely not going to be too tough of a game. I think that we can go down there — if we have the right mindset, we can pull off a win."
Logan, speaking to the team’s confidence, said: "We’re definitely confident going into any game, road (or) home. You’ve got to bring confidence and that’s how you’re going to keep yourself in the ball game."
Coastal Carolina might not be a member of a Power Five conference, but it enters the game with wins against Kansas in Lawrence in both 2020 and 2019. And while the Jayhawks are members of the Big 12 Conference and not the Sun Belt Conference like the Chanticleers, Coastal Carolina is favored. It’s a program that was "one of the big stories" in college football in 2020, Leipold said.
Leipold doesn’t know if Kansas' fourth-quarter comeback against South Dakota wouldn't have happened in past years for the Jayhawks. But he does know that, offensively, there are players like Bean and redshirt junior offensive linemen Colin Grunhard and Mike Novitsky who weren’t on the team last year who played a part in Friday's win. They bring a level of "newness," as Leipold put it, that he hopes can play a part in the change Kansas is working toward this season.
Maybe that change can include ending the Jayhawks' road woes, or at least lessening them. The environment Kansas heads into at Brooks Stadium could be a challenging one. And Bean said his team is eager to not experience the same type of results the Jayhawks have had recently.
"I’m excited to go up against this school this week," Bean said. "It’s a pretty big game. And I’m excited for this team."
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.