Kansas coach Charlie Weis talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 31-17 victory over South Dakota State on Sept. 1, 2012.
KU players talk following their 31-17 win over SDSU on Sept. 1, 2012.
For so much of Dayne Crist’s debut as Kansas University’s quarterback, Peggy Lee, a late singer from a bygone era, came to mind. You could almost hear her singing, “Is that all there is?”
Landing Crist, the big, bright, thick, strong-armed born leader who spent four years at Notre Dame, sparked so much excitement among a fan base that had been bored stiff the past two years.
One game into his KU career, Crist remains the most compelling figure on the football team, but for a different reason. Now intrigue has entered the picture. Just how good is the quarterback who suffered a pair of serious knee injuries, spent four years at Notre Dame and was benched for good part-way through the first game of his junior season?
Crist, he knows it ain’t easy. He knows how hard it can be. He also knows he’s much better than he showed Saturday night in front of 46,601 spectators in Memorial Stadium.
“I’m very disappointed with how I played, left a ton of throws out on the field,” Crist said. “More than anything, I’m just happy that we got a win, couldn’t be more happy for my teammates, and at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.”
Showing a symptom common with pitchers too amped up for the big start, Crist missed wild high with a number of throws. He overthrew his targets at other times, most notably when senior receiver Daymond Patterson had broken free in the back of the end zone.
Crist didn’t keep anyone in suspense as to the strength of his arm. He hit Kale Pick with a 43-yard bomb on the game’s first play from scrimmage. By the night’s end, he had completed just 17 of 36 passes for 169 yards with one touchdown, one interception and an average of 4.7 yards per pass attempt.
Crist said he never had been as excited waiting for a game to arrive.
“There is a ton of anxiousness going into any game, but waiting a full calendar year to get back was something that’s exciting, something I couldn’t wait for, but at the end of the day I tried to do too much, was a bit too antsy,” he said. “It’s not characteristic of me or how I want to play, but I’m excited to get the win and come back next week improved.”
Kansas coach Charlie Weis, the man who recruited Crist to Notre Dame and coached him for two years when he was a reserve, didn’t look the least bit worried.
“In the passing game, all the focus goes on the quarterback, but remember, this is a kid who hasn’t played in a year, gets pulled at halftime of the first game and really didn’t play again,” Weis said. “I think this was a good game for him to get out of the way, and he’ll just get better and better.”
So too, Weis said, will the fit between Crist and some of his receivers improve.
“When you look at it, you think it’s all the quarterback’s fault, but you don’t realize it when somebody’s not running the right route,” he said. “We had a screen pass called one time where one of our young men was running the wrong play. He came off the field after the play, and I said, ‘What were you doing?’ He honestly told me he was running a different play because the two plays sound alike.”
Nothing about KU’s off-target passing game dulled the enthusiasm Patterson has for his battery-mate.
“I think it’s just Week 1,” Patterson said. “Everybody’s anxious, hyped up to go. You see that all around the nation. It’s Week 1. You’re not going to connect on every pass that you want to just from being a little hyped up. The ball might get off the quarterback’s hand, the receiver’s trying too hard to run the route and might slip. From Week 1 to Week 2 should be the biggest jump because you’ve got one out of the way.”
Seeing if that’s the case makes the one-year Crist stay in Lawrence can’t-miss theater.