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Monday, October 6, 2014

Backup QB Cummings proves he’s prepared

Kansas backup quarterback Michael Cummings throws to a target against West Virginia during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Kansas backup quarterback Michael Cummings throws to a target against West Virginia during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia.

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In 2012, during a 56-16 loss at Kansas State, Kansas University quarterback Michael Cummings entered the game in the fourth quarter to replace an ineffective Dayne Crist and later talked about his first action as a Kansas quarterback.

“My job is to be ready when they call on me,” Cummings said that day in October 2012. “And I was ready. That’s all I can do.”

Fast-forward two years, and Cummings found himself in a familiar spot, asked to enter Saturday’s 33-14 loss at West Virginia to replace struggling starter Montell Cozart. His words following his latest stint in relief sounded eerily similar to those he uttered two seasons ago, and the junior from Killeen, Texas, again prepares to move forward as a potential short-term answer to a long-term problem.

“I take pride in being prepared,” Cummings said after starting the second half and finishing 8-of-17 passing for 65 yards. “A wise woman told me, ‘If you’re not always preparing, then you’re preparing to fail.’ So I try to attack every week as if I was the starter.”

Cummings elected not to reveal the identity of the woman from which the words of wisdom originated.

“Nah. Neither one of those,” he said when asked if it was his mother or a girlfriend. “I’ll just say a wise woman.”

It’s been a wild ride for Cummings as a Kansas quarterback. Recruited by former KU coach Turner Gill in 2011, the 5-foot-10, 210-pound QB with the big arm but few other notable attributes continually has been passed over on the depth chart while at Kansas. During his four seasons in the program, two KU coaches have looked for better talent to pile up in front of him.

First came Gill’s infatuation with Colorado prospect Brock Berglund, who never played a down at Kansas and spent his short time as a Jayhawk under a cloud of negativity. Then came Charlie Weis’ move to bring in Crist and Jake Heaps, two former five-star prospects who wound up benched before their KU careers were finished. And, finally, Cozart, a local guy who opened the season with so much promise but has struggled mightily in the weeks since.

All got their chance ahead of Cummings, and, despite some decent days and a lot of praise, all came up short and left the coaching staff looking to Cummings.

If ever there were a guy who could stand tall with a smug smile that said, “I'm still here,” it's Cummings. But that's not the way he's wired and not how he chooses to operate. Instead, KU's quarterback security blanket has continued to work, continued to grow and, once again, put himself on the verge of being the guy asked to lead this team.

“It just feels good being out there playing,” Cummings said.

Interim coach Clint Bowen, who needed just a half to make the move to Cummings, said after Saturday’s loss that the change was not necessarily permanent. Bowen said the staff and team would reevaluate things in the coming days before making a decision. Cummings and Cozart seemed OK with that news.

Cummings admitted that entering the game as a relief pitcher has its advantages.

“It’s definitely different,” he said. “It’s easier to see it from the sideline because you can see things happen and develop, and you don’t have to worry about 300-pound linemen coming at you.”

But this isn't a popularity contest. Nor is it viewed as a me-against-them sort of thing by Cummings or any other Jayhawks who play the position.

“The type of relationship we have in our quarterback room, if we see something out there that whoever's out there can take advantage of, we'll let 'em know,” Cummings said. “We don't try to pull each other down or anything like that.... We definitely gotta have a balanced attack. That's the key to any offense.”

The problems for the struggling Kansas offense — seven points points in the past eight quarters — go far beyond who's taking the snaps. But after what Cummings showed in the second half this weekend, there may be a belief developing that better days are ahead for KU's quarterback play.

“I feel like he did really well,” senior receiver Nick Harwell said of Cummings. “And it just showed us that we've got two quarterbacks that can play, two quarterbacks that can handle pressure. We just look forward to getting better individually and as a team.”

Welcome home

About five hours after walking off the field in Morgantown, West Virginia, the Jayhawks returned home to the Anderson Family Football Complex to find an unexpected sight.

Someone made the trek to the football facility while the team was headed home and decorated cars, signs, doors and windows with pro-KU crimson-and-blue balloons and banners. It was the first time in a while anyone could remember such a gesture taking place, and several players and coaches showed their appreciation with messages of thanks on Twitter and other social media sites.

OSU favored by 21

According to the oddsmakers in Las Vegas, Oklahoma State (4-1 overall, 2-0 Big 12) opened this week as a 21-point favorite over Kansas (2-3, 0-2).

The Cowboys and Jayhawks will kickoff at 3 p.m. Saturday and the game will be shown on FOX Sports 1. It will mark the 65th meeting all-time between the two teams and OSU leads the series, 32-29-3 overall and 18-15-1 in games played in Lawrence.

Comments

Bill Kackley 7 years, 3 months ago

Glad to hear there are some REAL KU fans around.

Jonathan Allison 7 years, 3 months ago

WVU was favored by 27.5

It looks like the line-setters are giving KU a TD for home field advantage.

Chris Bailey 7 years, 3 months ago

That's the smartest comment uttered on this site in quite a while. I couldn't agree more. Will we do that? Let's hope Bowen reads these comments!

Jonathan Allison 7 years, 3 months ago

I wouldn't expect Bowen/Reagan to hand the starting job over to Cummings right off the bat this week, though if they did that I would be impressed.

I would hope and guess that Cummings and Cozart will split the first string snaps in practice this week. If Cummings doesn't get 50% of the snaps with the 1s then I'd be disappointed.

I expect that Cozart will start and Cummings will be on-the-ready this weekend. Cummings will probably play more snaps that Cozart on Saturday if Cozart struggles which is most likely. But if Bowen wants to make a wholesale change and put Cummings on the first team I'd endorse it for sure.

David A. Smith 7 years, 3 months ago

Big props to the classy fans that decorated the vehicles! Well done! I have to share the prevailing sentiment: Cozart is a fine young man, but Cummings has to be the guy. He makes better decisions, and seems to see the field better.

Doug Cramer 7 years, 3 months ago

I told you this day would come, so I'd like to take you back to April. Does anyone remember this article ? Feel free to read the comments below.

All the ridicule I had to take, to tell the "herd" that our football program was a disaster. Nobody likes reality, but it is what it is. And I got news for ya, just because Clint Bowen is Interim Head Coach...that "disaster" hasn't changed.

It's time for Zenger to save his job and get a Snyder disciple ASAP, someone that knows how to win in this state.

If you don't like Mangino, fine, you're probably right that he's not coming back. But we need someone from the Snyder coaching tree that understands what needs to happen.

The University and KU Athletics inc. is losing out on too much revenue due to a lousy football program.

Chris Spangenburg 7 years, 3 months ago

Thats great, you're a regular genius. will you please post less now? please?

Max Ledom 7 years, 3 months ago

When are you just going to stop talking? You act like it was a difficult prediction to say we were going to suck this year. Also, who comes to an article and posts a comment on something that is completely irrelevant to the topic just to boast about their "prediction". Go away.

Ethan Berger 7 years, 3 months ago

I wouldn't mind seeing Cummings get snaps in practice and start the game. The reason is because I want to see if this is a QB issue. I will say Cummings looked better at getting the ball out, however it wasn't too much of a difference. I would say Cozarts issue looks to be he wants to make the big play. That could be why he is struggling with his reads. With Cummings, he was more willing to do more quick dump offs but that were held to small gains. The option has the same issue. What I've noticed is that it seems teams are playing a two spy system. One on our qb, one on our running back. Every option I've seen, linebackers have been in near perfect position. Maybe some crack blocks could help free that space and have the runners avoid the corners. My eyes tell me that in the run game, our o line doesn't get enough push or get to the next level. Which allows the safties and linebackers to be more instinctive. The only way to open up passing is to make teams fear our run game.

Doug Cramer 7 years, 3 months ago

It is a quarterback issue...but it's more of an offensive line issue.

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