Sunday, November 6, 2005


Keegan: Swanson cool leader


The pressure and mounting failures were etched all over the faces of former starting quarterbacks Adam Barmann and Brian Luke, the rotating centerpieces of an offense trying to stand on quicksand weeks ago.

The face of Jason Swanson: a blend of California cool and one contagious smile.

Swanson was happy after directing an offense that shredded Nebraska in a 40-15 victory, ending a 36-game losing streak in the series, but he wasn't giddy. He was California cool.

"No, no, it was not happier than last year in the K-State game," Swanson said. "Nowhere close. After the K-State game last year, we were on the field for 45 minutes."

That's what you want in a quarterback in a big game, a guy who gets the job done and acts as if it's no big deal.

To judge a great point guard, don't look at the numbers he puts in the book. Instead, look at how much better his teammates' numbers look when he's in command.

When either Barmann or Luke was in charge, could you have imagined two running backs and one receiver reaching 100 yards in production in the same Big 12 Conference game? Not without hallucinogens.

With Swanson making quick decisions and daring throws, some far too daring, the offensive line looked far better than it ever had, and Cornish (101 rushing yards), Clark Green (100 rushing, 46 receiving) and Mark Simmons (100 receiving yards) had big days.

The words right tackle Matt Thompson spoke to Swanson revealed even more than those numbers.

"Thanks for getting rid of that ball quick," Thompson told Swanson. "If not, I'd be getting yelled at right now."

When a quarterback hesitates, the receiver who was open isn't any longer, and the block that was held has been lost, leaving either the runner no place to run or the quarterback ducking for cover.

Swanson makes up his mind quickly and doesn't fear consequences. When he screws up, he has the ability to forget about.

"I forgot I even threw an interception until someone reminded me," Swanson said.

His confidence is as contagious as his smile. Whereas at the outset of the Big 12 season the defense had a leader on each unit (Charlton Keith up front, Nick Reid in the middle, Charles Gordon in the back), the offense had none.

Now they have a leader. Mistakes don't snowball because Swanson's temperament doesn't allow that, no matter how loudly anyone's being admonished.

"I think it helps out a lot to see that if things are going wrong and coaches are getting mad, that I'm still in there smiling and joking," Swanson said. "Once that gets in their minds, it picks up their spirits a little bit, and that's what's really important."

Swanson completed 16 of 27 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns, both to Simmons. Swanson was fortunate he threw only one interception.

Those relatively ordinary numbers were about the only ones that could be so described on a final stat sheet that showed KU with a 428-138 advantage in total yards.

"We had a really good offense, which is starting to hit on all cylinders," Mangino said.

Funny how it just so happened to begin clicking when Swanson, a better leader than talent, took charge of the offense and the huddle.


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