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Archive for Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Keegan: Luke, may the coach be with you

October 12, 2005

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The Oklahoma game will be played at the wrong stadium with the right quarterback. Oh well, given the recent fortunes of the Kansas University football program, .500 isn't such a horrible batting average.

Nothing KU can do now about moving Saturday night's Big 12 Conference game against Oklahoma from Arrowhead Stadium. At the time it was scheduled, surrendering the homefield advantage didn't seem much of an issue since the Sooners were a national power.

The game didn't look winnable. Now, it does. That's the first way Oklahoma's 2-3 record backfires on the Jayhawks. The second: Oklahoma's traveling party won't be as big as in years past, which translates to fewer dollars.

The game should draw more than the 50,071 capacity of Memorial Stadium, and will have a greater Sooners presence than if played in Lawrence, but won't approach the 79,451 Arrowhead capacity.

Either a KU upset or an Oklahoma blowout can prevent the change of venue from looking like a mistake. A close loss will leave us all wondering if a more biased crowd could have changed the outcome.

While nothing can be done about that, something can be done about the bizarre rotation of quarterbacks employed by coach Mark Mangino, and it seems something is being done.

Mangino told his best available quarterback, senior Brian Luke, he would start the game and he expected him to finish it. Adam Barmann? Mangino sounded Tuesday like a man belatedly ready to stop gambling that the terrific practice player will perform the same way in games.

Senior Jason Swanson is back in the picture, apparently second on the depth chart.

Red-shirt freshman Marcus Herford is in the right role as a change-of-pace, quick-in, quick-out guy.

As for the most talented quarterback on the roster, a look at what's keeping him in a red shirt reveals a side to the football coach that doesn't often go public. The Mangino we see at the weekly news conferences is the football coach scripting his words and urging his players to do the same. The Mangino we see on game days has a temper.

It doesn't hurt to remember the reason Kerry Meier was diagnosed with a heart condition that required a several-hour procedure was that Mangino saw to it that advanced cardiac screening was required for new players.

Now, a friend of Mangino's tells me, the reason he's not playing Meier is he's ever mindful of all the young athlete's been through and can't put that out of his mind for whatever short-term gain it might bring.

So Luke it is. And if Mangino can keep his emotions from applying the quick hook, Luke will start the second half, even if he stinks up the joint in the first half.

I had to wonder: Will Mangino allow Luke to play through his mental mistakes? So I wondered aloud.

"We have allowed him to play through a lot of them," Mangino said. "It's not like he makes an error and we yank him. We're going to let him play. I believe he'll get the job done. We need to protect him. We need to run good routes and catch the ball when it's delivered. That's why I go back to it's not just the quarterback."

He said quarterback. Not the plural version, quarterbacks. Good sign.

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