One year and five days ago, the Rice football team arrived in Lawrence, Kan. trying to find a way to break an 11-game road losing streak and a 20-game losing streak to Big 12 opponents.
Both streaks were busted when the Owls rallied from 11 down in the fourth quarter to win 25-24 after Chris Boswell hit a 45-yard field goal as time expired. The Owls went on to a winning season. Kansas went out to 10 consecutive losses.
A year later, it’s the Jayhawks looking to end a long, annoying road skid as both teams prepare for the 6:30 p.m. Saturday rematch at Rice Stadium. Rice is a 6.5 point favorite.
Kansas (1-0) ended its 11-game losing streak by defeating South Dakota 31-14 Saturday in Lawrence. But the Jayhawks still have a 22-game road losing streak and are 0-7 in its past seven games played in Texas.
Kansas did win its only previous meeting with the Owls at Rice Stadium, but that was in the 1961 Bluebonnet Bowl, a mere 51 years before Charlie Weis took over as Kansas coach.
“I’ve only been here a year,” said Weis at his press conference Tuesday. “I only know the games we were in last year. Anything before I was here has nothing to do with what we are trying to do now. All I know for the program winning last week got the losing streak out of the way. Winning this week will get losing on the road out of the way.”
Rice coach David Bailiff also downplayed what Kansas has done in past seasons.
“They broke an 11-game losing streak, so you know there’s a lot of excitement and confidence coming out of Lawrence,” Bailiff said at his press conference Monday. “…Defensively Kansas tackled really well for an opener. They are much improved on special teams from a year ago.”
Bailiff was also complementary of the Jayhawks running attack, which totaled 280 yards Saturday. James Sims, who was suspended for last year’s Rice game, led the way with 94 yards while Darrian Miller contributed 72. Three other Kansas running backs – Tony Pierson, Taylor Cox and Brandon Bourbon all had carries which resulted in gains of 22 yards or longer.
“Anytime you rush for close to 300 yards, it isn't just the runners, there’s obviously some holes in there or else you don’t get that many yards,” Weis said about the KU offensive line “I thought it was a good start.”
The Owls (0-1) gave up 202 rushing yards on 39 attempts in a 52-31 loss at Texas A&M on Aug. 31. Rice was without linebacker Cameron Nwosu that game. He is still recovering for a knee injury and is unlikely to play Saturday.
Senior Michael Kutzler made his first start and collected 11 tackles and a sack of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
“I thought Michael Kutzler performed extremely well,” Bailiff said. “Christian Covington and the defensive line played really big. He had five tackles, two for losses and a sack. I thought for a first outing, we tackled pretty well. I thought we played with unbelievable effort that whole football game.”
Bailiff said Kansas effectively ran and threw the ball against South Dakota.
“The transfer quarterback from BYU [Jake Heaps] throws a nice football,” Bailiff said. “He’s an exciting guy to watch. They’ve got some big play backs. They have a No. 3 [Pierson] that they put everywhere to try to get him the football.”
Heaps was 10 of 20 for 110 yards in the opener. Pierson caught two of the passes.
“We had three or four dropped balls on twenty passes and three throwaways,” Weis said. “If we get those percentages again, I’ll take it. We just need to improve on catching the ball. As far as the throwaways are concerned they go down as incompletions. I consider them to be smart plays.”
Saturday’s game marks the 64th home opener at Rice Stadium. The Owls have dropped three of the last four season-opening home games. The win was by two points over Purdue in 2011. Saturday’s game could be another small final margin of victory.
“Last year’s game went down to the wire, and I’m sure it’s going to be the same type of football game,” Bailiff said.