Archive for Sunday, November 7, 2004

Woodling: KU’s run of bad luck perplexing

November 7, 2004

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Whether you spell it adversity, Adversity or ADVERSITY, the only way to place more emphasis on the word is to square it or cube it.

And with two games remaining, who's to say Kansas University's star-crossed football team won't have to do just that?

KU coach Mark Mangino is no Joe Btfsplk. He doesn't have a storm cloud perpetually hanging over his head like that gloomy Al Capp cartoon character, and his middle name isn't Murphy ... as in Murphy's Law.

Yet Mangino knows adversity. And so do his players. So what do you do? In Mangino's case, you bring up Abraham Lincoln. Abe Lincoln? Why Honest Abe?

"Abe Lincoln lost elections, he lost a child, and he had a nervous breakdown," Mangino said he told his despondent players following Saturday's 30-21 loss to Colorado, "and he went on to become maybe our greatest president."

Yeah, but Abe Lincoln did not lose six quarterbacks to serious injuries during a three-year period, and he didn't have fumbles returned for touchdowns against him in three straight games.

If all that adversity had happened to Lincoln, his Emancipation Proclamation may have been issued to insure freedom from quarterback injuries. Then the old rail-splitter could have turned his attention to proposing a constitutional amendment make fumble returns illegal.

All the injuries to Kansas quarterbacks -- Jason Swanson was the latest victim Saturday -- are inexplicable. It's almost as if KU is the NCAA designee for quarterback triage. How will a school handle mass casualties at quarterback? Let's find out. How about Kansas for a guinea pig? OK.

I'm kidding, of course, but the injuries to KU quarterbacks have become so commonplace, the situation has become comical. Where's Chris Rock when you need him? Anybody seen George Carlin? Pass the Henny Youngman joke book.

Exhausted, Kansas' Charles Gordon takes a rare breather on the
bench in the waning moments against Colorado. Gordon collected four
tackles, a sack, a fumble, two interceptions and a pass reception
against the Buffs.

Exhausted, Kansas' Charles Gordon takes a rare breather on the bench in the waning moments against Colorado. Gordon collected four tackles, a sack, a fumble, two interceptions and a pass reception against the Buffs.

At the same time, the three consecutive fumble returns for touchdowns might fit better into the horror genre. Eerily, all of them occurred on the first series when a second-string quarterback came into the game.

At Oklahoma two weeks ago, Mangino inserted Swanson in the third quarter, and soon thereafter the junior-college transfer waited too long to throw, was hit and fumbled. The loose ball was picked up by OU linebacker Lance Mitchell and carted 28 yards to the end zone.

At Iowa State last weekend, Mangino inserted Brian Luke after Adam Barmann hurt his throwing shoulder, and the fourth-year junior waited too long to throw, was hit and fumbled. ISU's Brent Curvey, a 300-pound lineman, picked the ball up and lugged it 30 yards into the end zone.

Saturday, on the first play after John Nielsen took over for the injured Swanson, he threw a shovel pass to John Randle, who gained about three yards before coughing the ball up. CU safety Dominique Woods scooped it up and raced 41 yards for a score.

At least the quarterback wasn't at fault this time, but a weird coincidental pattern has been established -- bad things have happened when Mangino has sent in his second-string QB du jour.















Actually, Nielsen probably played better Saturday than anybody had a right to expect. He is a walk-on who wasn't even a starter in junior college two years ago. If Nielsen were in the NFL, he would be the designated emergency quarterback. He's slow and has a below-average arm, yet he rarely makes a mistake. In effect, Nielsen won't help you win, but he won't cause you to lose. He's a classic custodial QB.

Let's not overlook that he has been durable, too. Nielsen is the only active quarterback on the roster who has never been sidelined with an injury. Luke missed most of the first half of this season with an injury -- undisclosed, of course -- and now he appears to be No. 2 by default. That's scary.

With Barmann done and with Swanson seemingly in the same boat, I asked Mangino if the multi-talented Charles Gordon, the Jayhawks' best all-around player, could play quarterback.

"He said he can kick," Mangino replied. "Maybe he can play quarterback, too."

Not that Mangino would ever consider stationing Gordon under center. Given the vulnerability of KU quarterbacks, that would be cruel and unusual punishment.

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