It didn’t seem so unrealistic at the time – after all, both teams suited up a Meier brother as the starter.
Still, that doesn’t make Saturday’s quarterback matchup any less appealing. It’s just that now, instead of seeing a pairing consisting of two brothers, now viewers will see a battle of the freshmen, with Freeman going up against KU’s Meier and true freshman Todd Reesing.
Both sides’ quarterbacks have talents that fit well against the opposing team’s defense. Kansas’s pass defense is the worst in the conference, and Freeman comes in on a roll throwing the ball. In his last three games, Freeman is 55 for 77 for 681 yards and six touchdowns.
Included in that total is Freeman’s 269 yard and three touchdown performance against #4 Texas last week, where the Wildcats won 45-42. Freeman excels through the air, and he’ll be facing the worst rated pass defense in the Big 12 Conference. KU’s defense showed up the past two weeks against Iowa State and Colorado though, not yielding a 200-yard passer in either game.
Freeman isn’t much of a runner – he has a total of -4 yards rushing for the season, but he has the ability to make some plays with his feet, and the Wildcats will actually roll him out on a bootleg outside of the pocket fairly regularly. One of those bootlegs resulted in a short pass to Jordy Nelson that clinched the Texas game.
That brings us to KU’s options at quarterback.
While Freeman isn’t much of a threat to run, KU’s quarterbacks are dangerous largely for their talents toting the ball.
Kerry Meier and Todd Reesing both average about 50 yards rushing per game, a number that has grown with Kansas’s reliance on the option-read play.
In this play, the Kansas quarterback will tuck the ball into the gut of the running back, usually Jon Cornish, who is now the Big 12’s leading rusher. The quarterback must read the player on the edge, usually a defensive end. If the defensive end comes after the quarterback, they will hand the ball off. If the defensive end screams lateral to the line of scrimmage to try and stop the running back, the quarterback takes off.
It was this strategy that the Jayhawks used to mount a giant lead against Baylor that was later lost, in part because Kerry left the game with injury. Reesing also runs the play effectively – he is averaging 50 yards per game on the ground despite never playing any more than a half.
That will come in handy against a Kansas State defense that has struggled to stop the ground game, and allowed Colorado’s mobile quarterback Bernard Jackson to scamper for 105 yards and two touchdowns, a number made even more impressive by the fact that Jackson was sacked several times.
Kansas’s quarterbacks are also effective through the air.
Meier has 12 touchdowns passing on the year, while Reesing has completed 63 percent of his passes for three touchdowns in limited duty. Together, the two average 330 total yards per game. That’s tough for any opponent to stop.
That’s not to say that none of these freshmen have struggled. Both sides have struggled with turnovers. While Freeman has six touchdowns in the past three weeks, he didn’t have any before that, and has thrown 10 interceptions on the year. His 52 percent completion percentage on the year also shows his earlier struggles.
Meier and Reesing also have a problem turning the ball over, whether it be through fumbles, or through their combined 10 interceptions. Meier’s 54.7 completion percentage also isn’t too impressive when you consider that he plays in an offense based around shorter, easy to complete throws.
Whichever side of the freshmen shows up in Saturday’s game has yet to be seen. But it’s fairly safe to say that a freshman quarterback will either make the winning play, or the losing one, in the Sunflower Showdown.