LAWRENCE — The central Texas town of Killeen stretches west, connecting with Copperas Cove via U.S. 190.
Kansas freshman Michael Cummings grew up in Killeen, meaning he didn’t have to go far to hear about the exploits of Robert Griffin III — an adopted son of Copperas Cove. But last season, when Cummings was spending his redshirt year on the sideline, he got an up-close reminder of Griffin’s dominance in Baylor’s 31-30 victory over KU in overtime.
The Jayhawks built a 24-3 lead in the fourth quarter, just 15 minutes from a rare Big 12 victory. But then Griffin, the future Heisman winner, appeared to wake up, finished the game by throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for another at Memorial Stadium.
“We had them beat,” Cummings said. “But he pretty much single-handedly won the game for them last year. That was a tough one to swallow.”
One year later, the Baylor loss lingers as a curious artifact of the Gill era. Even in two years of ignominious meltdowns and incompetent showings, the Jayhawks’ performance against Griffin and the Bears was a reminder that KU wasn’t always terrible under Gill. Just most of the time.
“Guys were just doing assignments,” senior safety Bradley McDougald said. “Baylor came out really flat. There wasn’t really too much energy on their side of the ball, and guys were just making plays.”
One year later, with Kansas sitting at 1-7 overall and 0-5 in the Big 12, KU’s players would like to make up for last year’s second-half gag when they take on Baylor at 2:30 p.m. in Waco, Texas.
Senior quarterback Nick Florence, the nation’s leader in total offense, has replaced Griffin and both teams have plenty of new faces. Cummings will be making his third start after attempting nine passes last week against Texas. But a victory over Baylor, the Big 12’s other winless team, could give a jumpstart to a rocky rebuilding process under KU coach Charlie Weis.
“I wouldn’t say necessarily that we owe them one,” KU junior linebacker Huldon Tharp said. “Every week you want to win the game. But getting ready to go to their place, and it’s homecoming for them, it’d be a huge win for us.”
For Cummings, who will be returning to central Texas for his own homecoming of sorts, the memory of last year is still present. But it’s time, he says, to think more about the future.
“I’m sure everybody remembers,” Cummings said. “But the past is the past, and we move forward.”