LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Sonny Dykes has built winning programs all over the country, from Louisiana Tech to California to SMU and now TCU, where he has the Horned Frogs ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in more than three years.
If anybody can appreciate the job that Lance Leipold has done at Kansas, it's probably him.
“It's really pretty remarkable just how quickly, you know, he's been able to convince them and teach them really how to win. I think that sometimes takes a long time,” said Dykes, who will lead his No. 17 Horned Frogs (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) against the No. 19 Jayhawks on Saturday. “You can tell that they're completely bought into his way of doing things.”
It helps when it's a winning way.
Leipold won six Division III titles at Wisconsin-Whitewater and turned around Buffalo in his first shot as a Division I head coach. But it's the job he has done with the traditionally downtrodden Jayhawks (5-0, 2-0) that has made him an early frontrunner for national coach of the year. Kansas is unbeaten at this point for the first time since 2009, when it was last ranked in the Top 25, and has a surprising Heisman Trophy contender in quarterback Jalon Daniels.
It's been enough to create football fever in basketball-mad Lawrence. The school announced Wednesday it had sold out for the third consecutive game, and ESPN is bringing its popular “College Gameday” show to campus for the first time.
The winner Saturday remains atop the Big 12 as mid-October nears.
Who would have thought that before the season?
“A year ago we were a ways away,” Leipold acknowledged this week. “I try to do a good job in this program of keeping this balance, but yeah, there's a moment where you pinch yourself a little bit.”
Leipold made it perfectly clear that he wants his players, many of whom suffered through multiple coaches during those many failed seasons, to enjoy the moment. They've earned all the plaudits coming their way. But he also understands that success can be fleeting; the last Kansas team to start 5-0 lost its final seven games.
It's a similar message to what Dykes is giving the Horned Frogs, who opened eyes across the nation with their 55-24 romp past Oklahoma last week. They have not won their first five games in a season since 2017, when they won seven straight under Gary Patterson before finishing 11-3 and winning the Alamo Bowl.
“Just do what we've been doing, you know what I mean?” Dykes said. “So far I think we're in a good state of mind, and I’m hopeful that it doesn’t change between now and Saturday. We’re going to do everything we can on our end to ensure it doesn’t. But you know, the players have to decide for themselves either we’re going to listen to this or we’re not.”
BACK AT 'BACKER
TCU linebacker Marcel Brooks thought he'd miss eight weeks when he got hurt midway through fall camp. Instead, he was back last week against the Sooners, and now should help the Horned Frogs against the nation's No. 12 scoring offense.
“This week is about being disciplined: know your reads, know what you need to do, execute your job,” he said. “It's all about doing your job this week, honestly. I'm not really so focused about Kansas.”
The Jayhawks will be without running back Daniel Hishaw for the foreseeable future after he was carted off with a lower body injury last week against Iowa State. That means Devin Neal and Sevion Morrison will carry the load for the Jayhawks, while Daniels will continue to provide dual-threat problems for opposing defenses.
“It really stinks for Daniel, obviously, right?” Kansas offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki said. "That’s a tough deal but regardless of however a player’s unavailable, we have to have the next-man-up mentality.”
SPEAKING OF QBS
Good luck finding a better quarterback showcase than Saturday in Lawrence. Daniels has thrown for 983 yards and 11 touchdowns with one pick while slicing up defenses on the ground. TCU counterpart Max Duggan leads the nation in passing efficiency while throwing for 997 yards and 11 touchdowns without a pick.
Horned Frogs running back Kendre Miller leads active Power Five players at 7.43 yards per carry for his career. But he'll be facing a suddenly stingy Kansas defense that held Iowa State to 26 yards rushing last week, the fewest yards allowed on the ground by the Jayhawks since a 2009 game against UTEP.
Dykes warned his players about the Jayhawks' propensity for quick early leads, but TCU is the one that has been the frontrunner. The Horned Frogs have not trailed since the first 24 seconds of the second quarter of their opener against Colorado State, when Derius Davis returned a punt for a TD. Their last three wins have been wire-to-wire affairs.
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