Archive for Sunday, September 4, 2005

Keegan: Luke clearly top QB

September 4, 2005


The Adam Barmann Era surely ended Saturday night at Memorial Stadium. The Jayhawks are fortunate their season didn't die with it.

Barmann's jittery feet and wobbly passes, coupled with backup Brian Luke's confident pocket presence and long, accurate passes, made it easy to second-guess Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino for his decision to start Barmann over Luke.

In the end, it didn't matter.

The Jayhawks survived a scare and pulled away to defeat Florida Atlantic University, 30-19, in front of 40,930 fans who for a while feared seeing FAU play TCU with KU playing the role of Oklahoma as a heavily favored Big 12 Conference team upset in its opener.

The difference: Mangino's second choice at quarterback represented a vast improvement. Statistics sometimes lie, and in Luke's case, buttery fingers made his numbers look far smaller than his game-changing presence.

To out-and-out blast Mangino for starting the season with the wrong guy would be to slight him for quickly making a change and turning the team over to the guy with the far stronger, more accurate arm, the guy who looked more like he'd been there before.

The game turned on Luke's 17-yard touchdown pass to two-a-day practices buzz-maker, walk-on Jeff Foster, at the end of the third quarter.

Barmann, showing no ability to throw accurately on the run, looked the way he should have in his first game with KU two years ago when, in his career debut at Texas A&M;'s rowdy Kyle Field, he threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns.

Two years older, the same man played so much younger when he wildly overthrew an open Charles Gordon and was intercepted at the FAU 5 by Troy Pindell.

Luke, who rallied the Jayhawks from a 13-12 deficit to a 30-13 lead, completed 11 of 24 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown with one interception. If not for Dominic Roux dropping a beauty in the end zone and Marcus Henry failing to hold onto another potential touchdown that wasn't as easy to catch, Luke's numbers would have portrayed his day more accurately.

Howard Schnellenberger, who had the game's best quarterback on his side in West Virginia transfer Danny Embick, was brutally honest when asked to evaluate KU's quarterbacks.

"I think they're both fine young men, but they have a lot of work to do," Schnellenberger said.

Translation: You can have them.

Mangino said there was no QB controversy, but, really, what else would you expect a coach to say?

In truth, there shouldn't be a controversy. Barmann may be the better practice player, but it was Luke who led the Jayhawks to a 31-14 victory over Missouri in last season's finale and Luke who stretched the FAU defense in a way Barmann can't.

Given how Luke finished last season, it raises the question of whether he did something in that game that led Mangino to bump him back down the depth chart.

Anyway, Luke ought to be back in good graces, though he was far from perfect against the Owls, and, as Mangino said, "made a couple of throws he'd probably like to have back."

The true test for Luke will come when he faces the sort of heat Jayhawks defensive end Charlton Keith and in-your-face, all-over-the-place linebacker Banks Floodman sent Embick's way.

It's a test Luke has earned the right to undergo.


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