With most of Kansas University’s top offensive playmakers suiting up for the Blue team during Saturday’s spring game at Memorial Stadium, the White squad, which was led by sophomore quarterback Michael Cummings was forced to find a way with several Jayhawk reserves.
Kansas football coach Charlie Weis talks to reporters following the spring game on April 13, 2013.
Although the final numbers, including the 34-7 score, favored the Blue team, the White team made it interesting on more than one occasion.
The most notable came late in the first half, when Cummings led a four-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that took just 40 seconds.
Senior receiver Josh Ford and Cummings connected twice in a span of three plays, once on a 41-yard bomb that put the White team in Blue territory and two plays later on a 25-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone.
“He had a couple of nice plays and that’s been good for him because all last year his problem was catching the football,” KU coach Charlie Weis said of Ford. “It’s not about whether he can run routes, and he looks pretty in a uniform, too. But it doesn’t do any good if you go out there and it hits you in the chest. I think that (stretch) was good for him, I think that was good for the white team and I think it was good for Michael Cummings.”
The first touchdown of the day, a 13-yard TD pass from Jake Heaps to Tony Pierson on the first drive, was quickly met with a flag for excessive celebration. Turns out the flag was premeditated.
“If Tony gets an excessive celebration penalty, I’m gonna celebrate myself,” Weis said. “Because, with his personality, just to get him to celebrate would be something. But, in reality, we wanted the White team to start from the 45 yard line, if you want the insight behind that.”
Just kickin’ it
The kicking game that gave KU so many problems last season seemed much improved on Saturday. Newcomers Trevor Pardula (four punts for a 39-yard average) and Matthew Wyman (4-for-4 on PATs and 2-for-2 on field goals) both performed well in their first live action.
“Trevor took a little too much time because he knew there was no rush and that took him out of a normal punting rhythm,” Weis said. “But I’ve been pleased the whole spring in the improvement of our specialists. And we still have a couple guys coming in.”
At one point, with the White team facing a fourth-and-long at the 33-yard line, Pardula attempted a 50-yard field goal. The kick missed wide right but it had plenty of distance. The mere fact that KU attempted the kick was notable progress.
“Last year, we got held hostage a little bit by our specialists,” Weis said. “And I think we’ve got a pretty good plan to have that fixed.”
In the box
Weis, who is still recovering from surgery on a broken ankle, did not coach from the field on Saturday. Instead, he let his assistants handle both teams and watched from the coaches box.
“It was wonderful,” he said. “Oh, I’m telling you what; this head coaching stuff is for the birds. When you’re a veteran coach and you know what you’re looking at, you can call what’s gonna happen before the ball’s snapped.”
One such moment came on the second touchdown of the day, when Weis said he accurately predicted a 19-yard touchdown pass from Heaps to tight end Jimmay Mundine before the snap.
Oops, I did it again
With juco transfer Mike Smithburg and Cummings playing together in a game-setting for the first time, there were a couple of rough spots.
“The three quarterback-center exchanges is probably the one (bad) thing that stuck out in my mind,” Weis said. “....You can’t have unforced errors.”
The White team also lost two fumbles and backup quarterback Blake Jablonski threw a late interception to JaCorey Shepherd.
The Jayhawks got through Saturday’s game relatively injury-free. Cornerback Cassius Sendish tweaked a leg injury and was held out of the later portion of the game as a precaution. And Mundine came off the field hobbling at one point but returned to the field a few snaps later.
“When we get ready to go (in August), unless something happens in the offseason, we should be in a pretty healthy situation,” said Weis while knocking on the wooden table.
Bon Jovi time
Weis and a few others headed to Sprint Center after the game to take in the Bon Jovi concert. Weis hinted at his excitement when the final postgame question was asked.
“OK, so I’ve got one question for you, is it the Royals or Bon Jovi tonight?” Weis asked the media.
No one answered definitively, but Weis was asked if he was going.
“That is really a dumb question,” he said with a grin.
Asked to divulge his favorite song from his New Jersey friend, Weis balked.
“My wife accuses me of singing every one of them,” he said. “I happen to be a big fan. He’s a good friend, and he’s just a good guy.”
This and that...
The White squad won Saturday’s opening coin toss and deferred its choice to the second half. The Blue team elected to receive. ... Cornerback Nasir Moore led the White defense with nine tackles and Victor Simmons and Ben Goodman followed with seven apiece. ... Goodman was one of three Jayhawks to record a sack. He was joined by Michael Reynolds and Tedarian Johnson. ... Defensive lineman Jordan Tavai led the Blue team with six tackles and Ben Heeney (5), Jake Love (4) and Keon Stowers (4) helped out. ... Temperature at kickoff was 53 degrees, under partly cloudy skies with winds of 9 mph out of the southeast.