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Archive for Sunday, November 27, 2005

Keegan: Backup QB Luke saves day for KU

November 27, 2005

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Kansas University's third starting quarterback of the season, Jason Swanson, was on the ground in the middle of the field, clutching his left knee.

"To tell you the truth, I had a sense of calmness come over me," former starter Brian Luke said of that moment.

Here's guessing no one watching and wearing blue felt the same.

Nothing Luke did during his final days as the first-string quarterback did anything to instill confidence he could do what he did Saturday afternoon, when he rallied the Jayhawks to a 24-21 overtime victory over Iowa State in front of 42,826 fans at Memorial Stadium.

Swanson's final play of a shaky day that included three interceptions was his longest completion, for 25 yards to tight end Derek Fine.

Luke entered on the fourth play of the fourth quarter and finished the day with nine of 12 completions, rushed for one touchdown, passed for another and completed a two-point conversion pass.

It was first-and-goal from the 10 on Luke's first play. He was stopped on a keeper on fourth down from the one. A review reversed the call and rewarded him with a touchdown, a sign of things to come. It drew KU (6-5) within 14-12, and for the two-point conversion, he rolled right, stopped, turned and hit Fine in the left corner.

Perhaps fueled by the call reversal, Iowa State needed only 2:42 to go 87 yards on nine plays to move ahead by a touchdown.

No problem. Luke drove the Jayhawks 50 yards on 13 plays and on fourth-and-14 from the 30, he lofted one into the end zone to Brian Murph, who had beaten his man by a step, only to let the pass roll off his fingertips.

Again, no problem. When KU got the ball back, Luke drove it 58 yards on four plays, the final a 15-yard TD pass to No. 88, Dexton Fields, for the first reception of the red-shirt freshman's career, which forced overtime.

"I looked over, saw the number 8, and thought, 'OK, that's Mark Simmons,'" Luke said of No. 83. "It wasn't until I got in the end zone and I was grabbing him and I said, 'Oh my God, it's Dex!' It was awesome that he caught it. He'll be a great player here at KU."

In a way, it was easy to understand the source of Luke's reborn confidence. He had nothing to lose. If he played poorly, it's not as if that would have changed his legacy.

Luke made it nearly impossible for you not to give up on him and was particularly awful in the Oklahoma game at Arrowhead Stadium, where his first two passes were intercepted.

"I definitely didn't want KU fans to have their last memories of me be the Oklahoma game," Luke said.

He created far more pleasant ones for the fans and himself.

"Throwing the touchdown pass to Dexton, celebrating, and seeing my family on the field," Luke said of what he'll cherish from the day. "I'll definitely remember that. That was pretty special."

He had some senior day.

"I couldn't have asked for anything better, not just for me, but for all our seniors, the guys who I played with for five years here," Luke said. "We came in, and football was just pretty much laughed at, I thought. We all felt that way. I'm just really happy for all the guys who put in the effort and made the foundation for KU football."

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