NORMAN, Okla. — Charlie Weis had his plan, secret and ambitious. He had two quarterbacks — one a senior; one a freshman — and he was moving forward. When Kansas arrived inside Memorial Stadium on Saturday night, Weis said earlier this week, both incumbent Dayne Crist and freshman Michael Cummings would play against the 10th-ranked Sooners.
What wasn’t clear at the time, however, was that Weis would play both quarterbacks on the same series. And this is how we arrived at what might have been Kansas’ most miserable three-play stretch of the season.
It was Saturday night inside Memorial Stadium, and the Jayhawks, trailing by 10 points, had just recovered a muffed punt at the Oklahoma 11-yard line. At this point, the future was still chock-full of irrational hope. A 52-7 loss? That was still hours away. Maybe Kansas could score. Maybe the Jayhawks could hang. Maybe.
And then this: Dayne Crist missed a wide-open Tre’ Parmalee in the flat — “I think it’s a walk-in touchdown,” Weis would say. Cummings promptly replaced Crist and fired an incomplete pass. And then, improbably, Crist returned again on third down.
“I wasn’t looking to play musical quarterbacks,” Weis said. “It was just that three-play sequence fit the guys who had practiced those plays.”
In simple terms, Weis said it was Cummings’ job to a run a more bunched package that featured a potential quarterback run on every play. Crist, meanwhile, was to run a spread-out package that could take shots down field.
So on third-and-long, Weis went back to Crist, and Oklahoma linebacker Tom Wort tore up the play by turning Crist into a flying mess of arms and legs. Ball and quarterback went separate ways. A wild return ensued. And the 84,532 fans inside Memorial Stadium could smell blood.
“It’s 38-0 at halftime,” Weis would say. “What good can you say?”
By the end of the night, Oklahoma had finished off its 52-7 beating, a drubbing that was startling in its efficiency and completeness. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones feasted on KU’s secondary, looking like a future NFL starter in the process. The KU passing attack looked like it was conceived in a world where seven-on-seven football has yet to be invented. And Oklahoma put a nice bookend on the rout by returning a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown. It was the first time Oklahoma had ever accomplished that feat.
The Jayhawks would finally get on the board on a 1-yard touchdown run from running back James Sims with 3:11 left in the fourth quarter.
The Jayhawks dropped to 1-6 on the season and 0-4 in the Big 12. As a program, KU has now lost 16 straight Big 12 games and is 6-32 overall in its last 38 games. And as far as programs go, it would be tough to find two schools as far apart as the two here on Saturday.
“It really didn’t feel like we made much progress,” KU senior safety Bradley McDougald said. “I just don’t know. It just hurts, and we just got to get better.”
The night did start with some mystery. Who would start for Kansas? Weis elected to go with Cummings, who had sparked KU against Oklahoma State last week. Cummings managed to grind out two first downs on KU’s opening drive. But in a macro sense, he was perhaps only marginally better than Crist.
Cummings finished 10 for 21 for 111 yards while throwing two interceptions. Crist, meanwhile, was 3 of 6 for 13 yards. Crist’s package was shelved for most of the second half, Weis said, so that the younger Cummings could get experience. Weis passed on giving any indication of who might play going forward, but he did suggest that Cummings would see time.
On Oklahoma’s side, Jones took advantage of some inexperience in the Jayhawks’ secondary. On his first touchdown of the night, Jones threw a 44-yard strike to Oklahoma receiver Kenny Stills, helping Oklahoma to a 10-0 lead with 3:49 left in the first quarter. It was the kind of throw that would be perfect for a zoomed-in NFL Films highlight, the ball spiraling more than 55 yards in the Oklahoma night. It was also a reminder of what KU has lacked all season.
By the end, the Crimson-clad fans had mostly cleared out. Stoops took his foot off the gas after going up 52-0 early in the third quarter. And Kansas was left limping back to Lawrence.
Oklahoma is a top-10 team. Kansas is not. And the difference was never clearer.
“We need to play a complete game,” Cummings said. “Half a game, one-quarter of a game is not good enough in this league.”