On Nov. 3, 2012, Michael Cummings stepped onto a football field in central Texas for what was, at that moment, his first trip home as a college quarterback.
Cummings, a native of Killeen, Texas, did not grow up in Waco, nor did he spend all that much time on the Baylor campus, which sits about 60 miles northeast of his hometown. But in the landscape of Big 12 football, this is as close to home as it gets, so Cummings, then a freshman quarterback at Kansas, was motivated to show the people of central Texas what they had missed out on.
That trip to Baylor … well, let’s just say there weren’t many reasons to snap photos or Instagram any memories.
Cummings finished just nine of 19 for 81 yards and two interceptions. The Jayhawks lost 41-14 at old Floyd Casey Stadium. And Kansas barreled toward a 1-11 start in Charlie Weis’ first season in Lawrence.
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Now two years later, Cummings has an opportunity to make this trip home a little more memorable. Entering his third game as the Jayhawks’ regular starter since replacing Montell Cozart, Cummings has found a new comfort as the Kansas quarterback.
“He’s truly settled in as the (quarterback) that’s running the offense right now,” interim coach Clint Bowen said.
Cummings’ overall numbers are adequate. In two games as a starter, Cummings has completed 40 of 69 pass attempts for 523 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. But his presence has calmed an otherwise flailing offense.
Now Kansas will see if Cummings can be more than respectable. On Saturday, the Jayhawks will face Baylor, a football team that always seems on the verge of breaking the sound barrier. The Bears average 49 points per game, meaning even a stout effort from the KU defense could leave the game out of reach for the Jayhawks’ consistently quiet offensive unit.
“They don’t make mistakes,” Cummings said. “That’s what makes playing them tough.”
Last week, Cummings had the benefit of a bye week, an extra set of reps with the first-team offense. Will it matter against Baylor? Perhaps not. But back in central Texas, Cummings is hoping to break out.
“He’s proven that he’s a competitive guy,” Bowen said. “He’s been through some ups and downs in the program and just kept going and going and going.”
Kansas at No. 12 Baylor
WHEN: 3 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: McLane Stadium, Waco, Texas
TV: Fox Sports 1
Other story lines
▪ MORE HELP AT RECEIVER: Junior receiver Rodriguez Coleman, a former junior college transfer, was thought to be a potential playmaker when the season began. But he quickly fell out of favor with Charlie Weis and dropped off the depth chart. Now Weis is gone, and when asked about Coleman this week, interim coach Clint Bowen said he could still be a factor this season. “Rod has been through some things up and down, here and there,” Bowen said. “But he’s back in the mix, and we’ll see him on the field.”
▪ REMEMBER SETH RUSSELL? Baylor backup quarterback Seth Russell, who originally committed to Kansas under head coach Turner Gill, has been prolific while seeing limited time behind starter Bryce Petty this season. Russell has completed 33 of 58 passes for 647 yards and seven touchdowns while playing in parts of five games. He played major snaps in place of an injured Petty during blowout victories over SMU and Northwestern State.
▪ THE KANSAS CORNERBACKS: Senior cornerbacks JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald should be fully tested against Baylor’s fine crop of receivers, including KD Cannon (31 catches) and Antwan Goodley (27 catches). Shepherd has quietly put together an All-Big 12 type of season. He ranks third in the Big 12 in passes defended (10) with nine breakups and one interception. In addition, Shepherd has not allowed a touchdown since the season opener against Southeast Missouri State.