Let’s start with the most pressing question surrounding the Kansas football program: Yes, redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Cummings will get an opportunity to claim the starting job this week as the Jayhawks prepare to face No. 10 Oklahoma in Norman.
After replacing starter Dayne Crist in the second half and sparking KU to two fourth-quarter touchdowns drives in a 20-14 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday, Cummings is now positioned for a longer look from KU coach Charlie Weis — perhaps even the starting nod against the Sooners.
“I’m not ignorant now,” Weis said. “I saw the juice that the team had in the fourth quarter, and just like any person that's watching the game, I can't be oblivious to that fact.”
Crist finished 10 for 22 for 136 yards on Saturday against Oklahoma State, another in a long list of underwhelming performances. For the season, Crist, a senior transfer from Notre Dame, is now completing 49.4 percent (88 for 178) of his passes while throwing for three touchdowns and seven interceptions. The lack of production has been a season-long bugaboo for a Kansas team that has averaged just 19 points per game while starting the season 1-5.
Cummings, redshirt freshman from Killeen, Texas, didn’t light it up against Oklahoma State, of course. He completed five of 10 passes for 75 yards in just his second career appearance. (He recorded some mop-up duty against K-State on Oct. 6.) But Cummings’ presence and mobility appeared to give new energy to a program looking for answers. The Jayhawks sped up the tempo, and junior running back James Sims carried the load as the Jayhawks nearly dug out of a 20-0 hole.
“They kind of went hand in hand,” Weis said, when asked if Cummings’ entrance helped Sims’ game.
It appears a near certainty that Weis won’t make any decisions public before this Saturday, but all signs point to both KU quarterbacks sharing reps and the top spot on the depth chart this week. And it appears that Cummings will get a legitimate look.
Weis says he’ll choose the quarterback that gives KU the best chance to win against Oklahoma. And after Saturday, he came away impressed with Cummings’ ability to stay poised and in control in a difficult situation. During one timeout after Cummings entered the game, Weis called the young quarterback over for a quick chat.
“We were talking,” Weis said, “And I said, ‘Now remember, on the last play that we ran, this is always a possibility. And he goes “Yea, I saw that, but this is what happened.’
“It was a very upper-level thought to be shared with me at that time, which showed me, he wasn’t just playing the game, he was thinking about it.”
Cummings and the Jayhawks were not able to finish off the comeback on Saturday against Oklahoma State. But Weis said the fourth-quarter performance had given his players some evidence that they are moving in the right direction.
“They’re probably as upbeat as they’ve been since the opening game,” Weis said. “They feel a lot better about themselves.”