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Archive for Sunday, October 1, 2000

KU football offers same road story

Jayhawk coach Allen sticks with Smith on day Kansas’ quarterback would rather forget

October 1, 2000

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— If Rulon Gardner can win a gold medal, and if the U.S. softball team can lose three games and still wear pendants of gold, then surely Kansas University can win a football game on the road?

Do you believe in miracles? Uh, no.

If Saturday's 34-16 loss to Oklahoma seemed awfully familiar, it's only because it was. The average score of the Jayhawks' 17 road games in the three-plus years Terry Allen has been head coach is 38.4 to 16.1.

Maybe the Jayhawks should have mailed this one in and saved themselves the agony of losing a 16-10 lead while watching their quarterback make Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde look like Abercrombie and Fitch.

Dylen Smith passed for a career-high 258 yards Saturday and gave the ball to the Sooners seven times. Seven times??? Five interceptions and two lost fumbles??? Get him outta there.

No way. Allen has hitched his wagon to Smith and the wagon's wheels have too many bent spokes. Asked if he had considered replacing Smith, Allen replied tersely: "You always think about that, but he's our guy, and we didn't want to disrupt his confidence."

OK, but football is a team game and what about Smith's gaffe after gaffe after gaffe disrupting the confidence of his teammates?

"I'm sure that's a worry," Allen said, "but at this stage that's the way it is."

Allen brought three other quarterbacks to Norman and it's pretty obvious he has little faith in any of them, or he would have used them, particularly in the second half. That's easy to understand with one a sophomore (Jonas Weatherbie) and the other two (Zach Dyer and Mario Kinsey) both freshmen.

It's not like Smith has been having a terrific season and his performance Saturday was an anamoly. Smith went into the OU game nearly at the bottom of Big 12 Conference passing efficiency charts. Only Missouri's Kirk Farmer was rated lower.

If this were the NFL, Allen would be scouring the waiver wire, looking for a capable back-up, someone he wouldn't be loathe to use when Smith goes into a funk like he did on Saturday. But this is college football and Allen has to dance with the only QB he has with a chance of taking the Jayhawks to a postseason dance.

Afterward, Smith said all he could do was forget about the "worst game I've ever had." But can he really forget? "If we go to a bowl game," he said, "I can, but if we don't go to a bowl game I can't forget about it."

Late in Saturday's game, when it was obvious the Jayhawks weren't going to mount a comeback and were about to lose their 14th straight conference road game, Harrison Hill gave Smith a sideline pep talk.

Hill, who also had a career day with 144 receiving yards, is one of the Jayhawks' most upbeat and talkative players and he sensed Smith needed a friend.

"He was upset," Hill said, reflecting on the moment, "and I told him we have a long row to hoe, that we have a lot more games this season and to forget about it."

That row isn't so long anymore, however.

Allen has to be frustrated by Smith's inconsistency through the first four games. The 6-foot-1, 198-pound senior who transferred to Mount Oread last season from Santa Monica CC in California is nimble, has major-college arm strength and has had more than enough time to learn the offense.

Every week Allen must be hoping this is the week Dylen Smith will have his breakthrough game, this is the week Smith will come of age as an NCAA Div. I-A quarterback, this is the week the KU football program will turn the corner.

Those weeks are running out, though. If Smith doesn't click this Saturday against Kansas State, then he absolutely, positively must silence the critics in two weeks at Missouri.

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