Michael Cummings gave the Kansas Jayhawks a chance to win in the fourth quarter Saturday.
That’s all first-year Kansas coach Charlie Weis is looking for out of his starting quarterback.
And Cummings, the former Killeen High standout, might finally get his chance to be Kansas’ starting quarterback when the Jayhawks travel to Norman, Okla., to face the 10th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Weis on Monday said he’ll decide today whether it will be Cummings, a former three-year starter at Killeen, or senior Dayne Crist who gets the start for Kansas (1-5, 0-3 Big 12) against the Sooners.
“It’ll be more about what gives us the best chance to win against a very, very, very good Oklahoma team,” Weis said.
Weis benched Crist in the third quarter and went with Cummings in the 20-14 loss to Oklahoma State. Cummings’ first series wasn’t exactly magic, but after a field goal gave the Cowboys a 20-0 lead with 14:10 left, the redshirt freshman settled into his second drive. He marched the Jayhawks 65 yards and capped the drive with his first career touchdown pass, 25 yards to Jimmay Mundine. Cummings finished 5-of-10 for 75 yards and a touchdown passing.
“I was just taking it one play at a time. I was trying to stay within the offense, distribute the ball properly, and read the coverage,” Cummings said after the game.
Kansas junior running back James Sims ran 27 times for 138 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown run that pulled the Jayhawks to within 6 with just under nine minutes left.
“Once one person made a play, another person would step up and make a big play. But that’s how it is supposed to be. We need to be one big unit and feed off each other,” Cummings said.
But the rally fizzled.
After Kansas’ defense forced an Oklahoma State punt, Cummings overthrew his receiver on a fourth-and-5 pass with less than three minutes left in the game and the Cowboys were able to run out the clock after a roughing the kicker penalty against the Jayhawks gave Oklahoma State an automatic first down.
But the Jayhawks were right there in the fourth quarter, threatening to upset Oklahoma State. That fact wassn’t lost by fans and players.
“That’s a game against a good team and he wasn’t flinching,” Weis said of Cummings. “He had great composure, he was having fun, and he put us in a position to win the game. It’s something we are going to have to seriously look at.”
For the first two-plus quarters with Crist, the Jayhawks had just 233 yards on offense, 10 first downs and, more importantly, zero points. Crist, who was a protégé of Weis’ at Notre Dame and transferred to Lawrence to be with his former coach, finished 10-of-22 for 136 yards.
This season, Kansas’ offense is either at the bottom of the Big 12 or working its way down there.
The Jayhawks are last in scoring offense (19 points per game) and passing efficiency and ninth in total offense (377.7 yards per game) and passing offense (198.3). Only their rushing offense, ranked fifth averaging 179.3 yards per game, is performing admirably.
“We felt the energy and then he started making a couple of plays here and there and got the crowd back into it,” said Kansas junior linebacker Huldon Tharp. “He gave us a chance and we just came up short in the end. He gave us the opportunity to win the game.”