LAWRENCE — Les Miles planned on starting his team’s practice Monday with a question.
That said, the Kansas football head coach acknowledged he already has a hunch on the response he'd receive.
The Jayhawks entered last Friday’s contest at Boston College as three-touchdown underdogs but flipped the script in a stunning 48-24 victory, the program’s first road win over a Power Five opponent since Oct. 4, 2008. A rare occurrence last achieved when most of KU’s current players were still memorizing their multiplication charts, Miles was curious to know whether his squad would simply be content with the feel-good result.
“I’m going to ask this team when I see them this afternoon: ‘OK, is that enough? Should we just forget it, the rest of the year? What do you think?’ And see what they say, OK,” Miles said. “It’d be my guess that they can’t wait to practice, they can’t wait to prepare. And West Virginia’s a good football team, so they’ll be plenty motivated.”
In the midst of an already emotionally draining season, the Jayhawks (2-1) will welcome the Mountaineers (2-1) to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. Saturday kickoff. Momentum, Miles hopes, will be on KU’s side after the team’s most recent high.
“I’d be disappointed if I felt like our guys were going to have to be reined in,” Miles said. “I think they have enjoyed the victory, the feel of victory and the wonderful joy and pleasure it is to leave a stadium with victory. I’d be surprised if they didn’t want more of that. It’s intoxicating. ...
“Guys have accomplished, to a point. Now it’s about the next things that we set our sails on doing. So I certainly like where we’re at. I think our team will be motivated to do special things. Understand that they’ve done a couple special things. Now there’s more to it. It’ll be exciting.”
In its opener, KU needed a come-from-behind touchdown drive in the final minutes to defeat FCS-level opponent Indiana State, 24-17. The Jayhawks followed that up with a disheartening 12-7 defeat to Sun Belt program Coastal Carolina, with the Chanticleers earning their first ever Power Five victory. And Monday, on the heels of last week’s remarkable six-day turnaround, KU was named the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) national team of the week.
Miles indicated the sting of the Week 2 outcome directly led to his team’s fire in Week 3.
“Your heart’s in it,” Miles said. “There’s no pretending. There’s no nonchalant, ‘This is not that big of a deal.’ No, it’s your heart. You’re listening to it beat — every pound, every stinkin’ second. And your players, when they have that same issue and effect, boy, you’ve got a good team.”
Despite Friday’s blowout, KU still enters Big 12 play as the projected last-place finisher in the conference’s preseason poll, and by a wide margin. Against the Mountaineers, the Jayhawks will not only be looking to start 3-1 or better for the first time since the 2009 campaign but to show signs of progress in the few areas of concern that emerged out of last Friday’s rout.
“We need to get better at everything there is on our team,” Miles said. “We need to get better at line technique. We need to get better at our defensive punch. I mean, there’s places we can get better. At the same point, we will get better.”
And, beginning against the Mountaineers, Miles expects that transformation to take place in front of more eyes.
Midway through a question that touched on fan turnout, the head coach interjected enthusiastically.
“We’re going to have a home crowd that is spectacular,” Miles said. “There is no question that this home crowd is going to be loud, eat a lot of food. Drink — they’re allowed to drink there now, right? They’re going to drink and be loud and have fun and we are going to play our butts off, just as hard as we can. That’s a good West Virginia team coming in, and they’re worth it.”
Senior quarterback Carter Stanley was named one of eight candidates for the Manning Award quarterback of the week, awarded by the Allstate Sugar Bowl through a fan vote. Stanley finished 20-for-27 passing for 238 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the Jayhawks’ victory over the Eagles.
Miles was impressed with Stanley’s response to a poor performance versus Coastal Carolina.
“He was quiet,” Miles said. “He ... wanted to hear. He wanted to be coached. He wanted to coach. He wanted to make sure the receivers were in the spots they needed to be in. He was sincere. All of those things. ...
“If Carter continues to play like that, that’ll make a difference at the receiving spot, if he gets it out of his hand fast. I mean, there’s a lot of places that quarterback play will make a tremendous difference. That’ll happen.”