CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — There are no shortcuts in Kansas’ journey out of the college football abyss.
That point, KU athletic director Jeff Long felt, was worth reiterating to any fan conditioned to tune out this time of year, a process that’s become something akin to muscle memory across the last decade and one that may be accelerated by the Jayhawks’ disheartening 12-7 home defeat last Saturday to Sun Belt program Coastal Carolina.
“Every KU alumni, friend and supporter we met with this offseason understood that breaking the cycle of losing football would be a process and one that would not be accomplished overnight,” Long wrote Monday in an open letter to KU fans.
KU (1-1) has averaged 33,052 fans across its first two contests at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Long argued maintaining that pace — “consistent and sustained support,” he wrote — is necessary to his stated goal of ending a run of futility that has produced a collective 19-91 record across the last nine-plus seasons.
“There are going to be setbacks along our path to success,” Long continued, “but ultimately with your continued and unwavering support, we will be able to achieve success together.”
As KU hits the road for the first time this season, Long must wait a little while longer until his next opportunity to gauge fan interest.
With the team readying for a rare Friday night tilt, however, everyone watching will get an expedited look into just how invested the Jayhawks themselves are in a season where they’ll potentially be double-digit underdogs in each remaining contest.
KU plays Boston College (2-0) at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Alumni Stadium, facing a significantly steeper challenge than what was posed by FCS-level Indiana State, a team the Jayhawks rallied to defeat in the season opener, and Coastal Carolina, which earned its first ever victory over a Power Five foe last weekend. After back-to-back games as betting line favorites, KU enters Week 3 as a 21-point underdog, up from an 18½-point Boston College advantage at open.
Safety Mike Lee said he’s seen an uptick in intensity at this week’s practices — “On both sides of the ball, even on scout team,” he said. A senior, Lee has been in this spot often throughout his KU career, and his message to more inexperienced players has been straightforward.
“Just keep your head up,” Lee said. “Every game is not going to be a perfect game. You can go out there and give it your all and still end up with a loss. So you just have to fight through adversity, keep your head up and go through every game thinking, ‘OK, we about to win this game.’ Don’t be negative in your head. Always stay positive. Just keep that up and we’ll be heading to a nice place.”
Asked if this team is better equipped to bounce back from a deflating defeat than past Jayhawk squads, Lee responded: “Of course.”
“I feel like we have great people on our team that have great talent and (are) just willing to do anything to help this team get to a bowl game and win more games. I feel like we have great athletes,” Lee continued. “So, yeah.”
Senior quarterback Carter Stanley, who threw a pair of interceptions against Coastal Carolina, has been one of the first faces inside Anderson Family Football Complex each day this week. He’s devoted most of his time to watching film, both of what went wrong Saturday and what Boston College has done to this point in the season.
He’s also picked the brain of good friend and former KU quarterback Ryan Willis — now with Virginia Tech, the Overland Park native threw four touchdown passes and three interceptions in the Hokies’ season-opening defeat at Boston College.
“(Sunday) was the last day we thought about it,” Stanley said of the Week 2 defeat. “We reviewed it, went over the positives, definitely went over the negatives. We flushed it, so we’re now on to BC."
As for head coach Les Miles, his first season has been “exactly what (he) would’ve expected” to this point, he said.
“The occasional step back, but no, I never thought that it would be just undefeated for the next five years,” Miles said. “But this football team is getting better, and they will continue to get better.”
Part of the challenge, Miles acknowledged, is getting college-aged players to see the big picture after moments like last Saturday’s setback.
“I think it takes some explanation. I think you need to understand that this is an amount of time,” Miles said. “We’ve just started. We will be, down the road, a lot better than we are today. We’ll be better after today’s practice (Monday) and we’ll so look forward to playing the next opponent. ...
“I like my team. I think they're imperfect at this point, and I talk about coaches and players. We're all in this together. We'll make the necessary advancement in our technique, in our abilities to play, and I think you'll see a better football team as we continue.”
KANSAS AT BOSTON COLLEGE
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. Friday, Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Records: KU 1-1, Boston College 2-0
TV/Radio: ACC Network/KWIC-FM (99.3)
Line: Boston College by 21
Next for KU: vs. West Virginia, 3:30 p.m. Sept. 21, David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Lawrence