- Yes, KU’s offensive line is bigger, stronger and much-improved.
- Yes, KU’s defensive line could well be one of the best in the conference.
- Yes, KU’s linebackers are still the cornerstone of the defense, with the law firm of Reid, Kane and Floodman combined for 25 tackles.
- Yes, KU can move the football on the ground without John Randle, thanks to Clark Green (107 yards on 20 carries) and Jon Cornish (45 on 4, including a very nice 29 yard TD run in the 4th quarter).
- Yes, Scott Webb’s leg is much stronger, hitting both field goals he was called on to kick (43 and 32 yards).
But inconsistent play at the quarterback spot continues to haunt the Jayhawks, and highly-touted freshman QB Kerrie Meier’s absence from the KU sideline may well last beyond Saturday night.
Last week, an advanced medical procedure administered to new players detected “a problem” with Meier, according to KU head coach Mark Mangino. However, HIPAA laws and respect for the Meier family’s privacy prevented him from saying more.
“He has some things that need to be done, some procedural work. It’s a situation where we were very fortunate. We caught something that may have gone undetected had we not had advanced medical screening for new players. We’re very thankful for that. He’s going to be fine, but he’s being evaluated. He’s undergone a procedure and there will be another procedure,” Mangino said.
Meier will be unavailable for next week’s game against Appalachian State, but beyond that, his status in uncertain.
Meanwhile, at Memorial Stadium, the quarterbacks who were available Saturday night didn’t do much to quell concerns about KU’s inconsistency at that position.
Postgame, Mangino said he was encouraged. “We’re very close to getting things clicking on all cylinders on offense,” he said.
Adam Barmann got the hook early after going five-of-11 with one INT and rushing for 19 yards on five carries.
Back-up Brian Luke put his helmet on at the start of the second quarter and never took it off. Luke threw for 121 yards, completing 11 out of 24 attempts with one interception.
Barmann looked jittery in the pocket and, in a couple of situations, got happy feet while still looking a split-second slow in his decision-making.
“I thought that Adam came in and did some good things, but he was not in a rhythm,” Mangino explained.
While no one would have mistaken back-up Brian Luke for Joe Montana last night, but the senior back-up looked solid once he settled in against the overmatched Owls. He stepped into the pocket to buy time on a number of occasions and threw the ball with some authority. The team seemed to play more at ease when was under center, as well. He also made a couple of nice runs off the option, finishing with 29 yards on seven rushes.
“We had planned to use two quarterbacks, for sure, and Brian came in. It took him a little while, but he got into a rhythm. He recognized all the blitzes. There were a couple of throws he’d probably like to have back, but for the most part, he got into a rhythm and we continued to go with him,” Mangino said.
Luke also had the benefit of a solid run game performance. Clark Green’s 107 yards along with Jon Cornish’s 45 yards on just four carries took some of the pressure off.
“The run game helped (Luke) tremendously,” Mangino commented. “We needed to be able to run the ball. A good running game will take pressure off the passing game and it will force people to play the box and give us the opportunity to get the ball out and down the field.”
Mangino declined to comment on who would get the snaps with the starters at practice Monday afternoon.
“I’m not going to talk about the quarterback position because I want to watch the tape,” Mangino said.
But the Jayhawk coach insists that “controversy” is not a word that can be linked to his quarterback situation. In fact, he says he’s in a good situation.
“I think it’s a positive: we’ve got two guys who can play,” Mangino said. “If we have to play two, we’ll play two every week.”
But Mangino knows that’s not how fans’ minds work. Just one game in, it’s probably too early to call this a quarterback controversy. Let’s just call it a “healthy disagreement” for now. But for KU to have success this year, one of the quarterbacks is going to have to step up and make plays and do it consistently.