By DAVE SKRETTA
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Charlie Weis has already demonstrated a gambler's mentality through his first five games at Kansas, a willingness to push his chips all-in if it means snatching a victory.
It was never as evident as last Saturday at Kansas State.
The Jayhawks pulled off an audacious faked field goal and faked punt in the first half and were within a touchdown at halftime, the score no doubt causing murmurs across the country.
The sixth-ranked Wildcats finally got on track in the second half, scoring four touchdowns in the third quarter to put the game away. But the fact that Kansas had played the brawny Wildcats to a virtual stalemate through 30 minutes was a testament to Weis' go-for-broke mentality.
"I'd rather go down swinging than not take a swing," Weis said Tuesday, while taking a break from preparation for next weekend's game against Oklahoma State. "I'm not taking a third strike."
That's a departure in mentality from his predecessor, Turner Gill.
Gill was often criticized for being exceedingly cautious, wary of taking chances, even if it meant keeping a game close at the expense of playing for victory. So while he played then-No. 9 Nebraska close in 2010, and nearly upset Baylor last season, he ultimately beat neither of them.
He only won five games over two seasons and was fired last December.
Weis is taking a far different approach.
"I've always had that in me, number one, and number two, I do believe when you go into a game, you as a coaching staff have to make a value judgment," Weis said. "What do you think you're going to have to do to give your team the best chance of winning?"
If that means calling for a punt fake at your own 29-yard line in the first quarter of a tied game, so be it. If that means calling for the field goal unit to throw the ball downfield with the game still tied later in the first half, well, that's exactly what Weis is going to do.
"It was kind of crazy there for a little while," said the Wildcats' Ty Zimmerman, who seemed both surprised and impressed by the Jayhawks' cavalier approach last Saturday.
Weis said his willingness to take chances stems from his work under Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick in the NFL. Both of the coaches have been considered conservative in their game plans, but Weis said that perception is misguided — or just plain inaccurate.
"They might be conservative in their normal offense and defense," Weis said, "but when it comes down to taking a gamble, I don't think I've ever seen anybody go for it on fourth down more than Bill Belichick in my life."
Of course, the team Weis inherited this season has sometimes given him little choice.
The offense has struggled to score points through the first five weeks, and kicker Ron Doherty has missed five of 10 field-goal attempts. So if the alternative to failing on fourth down is blowing a 40-yard kick, Weis is willing to take his chances with the offense.
The Jayhawks (1-4) have gone for it on fourth down 10 times the last three weeks, converting half of them — the same rate at which Doherty is making field goals.
"The most import thing is to try to win this week's game," Weis said, "and you have to do everything in your position to get your team ready to win this week's game."
That doesn't mean mortgaging the future to win a few games in the present.
Weis called it a balancing act between taking chances to spring an upset and playing the kind of fundamentally sound football that he believes will yield success further down the road.
"You can't ever sacrifice your current team for the sake of development," he said, "but at the same time you have to do both simultaneously. They have to go hand in hand."