LAWRENCE — Coping with a lengthy losing streak requires different responses.
Especially the enormous skid Kansas must tackle – again — on Saturday when it travels to Ohio.
The Jayhawks have lost 44 straight away from home and 41 true road games. The streak stretches to the early stages of the 2009 season, when KU last won on the road, at UTEP.
When neutral sites are included, that number elicits something even more painful — the inability to beat Missouri in Arrowhead Stadium before the current ceasefire to that rivalry.
David Beaty knew of the streak when he was hired. It stood then at 30 consecutive road defeats. He knows even more about the struggles now. Yet this week, the third-year Kansas coach played pretend when asked about the issue.
“I don’t think I’ve ever even given it a thought,’’ Beaty told a reporter who asked if conversations had been broached with players about the skid, and to what degree the topic would be addressed this week.
“Until you said it, I didn’t even think about it. But hey, it’s like any other streak, somebody’s going to break it. Might as well be us.’’
If only the confidence existed to pull off what would be considered an upset over the Bobcats, who are considered a touchdown favorite.
A deflating loss last week to Central Michigan blunted the feel-good momentum that began with last year’s overtime upset of Texas, progressed through the offseason and was stoked by a season-opening win showing off the arm of transfer quarterback Peyton Bender.
Now, depression has sunk in again for the Jayhawks, but can be remedied with a win at Ohio.
“It would mean a lot, really. We haven’t won a road game since, what, 2009?’’ said sophomore safety Mike Lee, openly aware of the streak. “So really when we get that, I guess — I don’t want to say, I guess — people are going to see we’re coming with a lot of talent.’’
Understandable for Lee to let down his competitive guard.
Guessing when KU will win again on the road is a matter that has stumped many over a run of eight consecutive losing seasons.
“Everything that we do, period, as a team, is just what we do,’’ junior defensive end Dorance Armstrong said. “We can’t blame a road game for not winning any games. We’ve just got to play better, be more prepared for what we do and play our games.’’
Whatever level of game the Jayhawks can summon, however, was presumably re-evaluated coming off the Central Michigan defeat.
Among those who have followed KU in recent years, a simple conclusion was drawn – same ol’, same ol’. Enough to make Beaty’s assertion — “Might as well be us.’’ — ring hollow.
Beaty and the Jayhawks should, in his third season, be able to compete favorably on the road against a MAC opponent.
In spite of a loss at home last week to a MAC opponent. In spite of a 37-21 loss to Ohio last season in Lawrence.
A road game can actually bond a team if it possesses sufficient resolve.
“We’ve just got to create enough energy to last throughout the whole game for us,’’ said Armstrong, “and I think everybody making plays will create those plays and have us locked in.’’
Buy-in, however, is needed for that kind of performance.
Will KU have it after the loss to Central Michigan? After defenders looked passive? After offensive execution looked erratic?
Those must be the issues that keep Beaty from thinking about the streak.
In fairness, his teams are not entirely responsible for the duration of the skid. Not even close.
The numbers accumulated over time are unsettling, however. Just six of the 41 consecutive defeats have been by single-digit margins. Double that you have the outcomes (12) decided by 40-plus points.
Win or lose at Ohio, another losing streak will be re-launched on Oct. 14. That day, KU will play at Iowa State, the place it last won a conference road game in 2008. Since then, the Jayhawks have lost 36 straight on the road against Big 12 rivals.
Putting an end to the overall skid by winning at Ohio would not only rid the Jayhawks of a burden, but renew some enthusiasm for marked improvement in 2017.
Snapping the skid would “be a step forward for this team,’’ Armstrong said.
That is a colossal understatement, though it does at least address the elephant on the field.
Contact Kevin Haskin at firstname.lastname@example.org or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.