LAWRENCE — Kansas quarterback Kale Pick says he's gotten all kinds of advice from Turner Gill and Chuck Long, both former stars at his position. This week, as Pick prepares to make his first college start, more nuggets of wisdom will be offered — possibly none more essential than a lesson from Long about how to manage the pregame meal.
If Gill was paying any attention to the opposing sideline on Sept. 11, 1982, when his Nebraska team spanked Long's Iowa team 42-7, he'd surely remember the cautionary tale that unfolded that day:
It was Long's first start, and, as he remembers it, the Astroturf at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln was so hot it was emanating heat waves during warm-ups.
"I thought I needed a lot of energy in that game," said Long, the KU offensive coordinator. "I ate everything at the pregame meal — everything in sight — just to store up some energy to get me through the hot day."
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Fast-forward to the middle of the fourth quarter, when the bludgeoning the third-ranked Cornhuskers handed Long all afternoon had finally set in. He did not feel well, so he called a timeout and headed for the sideline to meet with Iowa coach Hayden Fry, who was wearing his signature white pants and white shoes.
"He's really mad," Long said. "He wants to get the clock rolling. I go over there and I throw up all over his white pants and all over his shoes, and he benched me on the spot. He said, 'Get out.' I often tell quarterbacks that first story. Hey, nowhere to go but up."
The circumstances of Pick's first start won't be as dire as Long's. The Jayhawks will be facing FCS program North Dakota State at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, where temperatures are expected to stay in the 70s. Still, all eyes will be on Pick, the sophomore from Dodge City, who won the starting job after a healthy competition with redshirt freshman Jordan Webb.
The pressure is on Pick to validate Gill's decision. When asked on Tuesday what position he was most curious to watch, Gill said, "Just like everybody else, quarterback. How are they gonna respond on game day. We'll find out."
Gill and Long both indicated that Webb could see action but made it clear that they see KU as Pick's team. And according to teammates, in the weeks since Pick was named the starter, he has taken possession.
"His confidence level went up a lot more than it was," KU wide receiver Johnathan Wilson said. "I think he's gonna handle the first game real well."
Wilson compared Pick's demeanor to that of Todd Reesing, which is probably a good sign.
"In (Pick's) mind," KU offensive lineman Brad Thorson said, "he always thought he was going to be the guy. When Coach Gill told him, he was just ready to step into that role and continue being that leader. He's a guy that's had consistent effort all the way through. He's not an ego guy. It doesn't need to be all about Kale."
In interviews, Pick clearly does not like to talk about himself. He will admit to excitement, but that's about it. He would rather talk about preparation.
"You can't play to your full potential if you're not prepared enough," Pick said.
It will be up to Long to make sure Pick has considered everything.
"I learned how to eat a pregame meal after that," Long said.
All in on defense — With plenty of position battles still being fought on the defensive side of the ball, it doesn't appear Kansas defensive coordinator Carl Torbush is going to proceed with much caution as far as the two-deep depth chart is concerned.
If you've got two legs, two arms and are interested in making a tackle, interception or sack, you're going to play for KU on Saturday against North Dakota State.
"Defensively, I'll be shocked if everybody that we take to the motel, if they don't play," Torbush said. "I would think all of our defensive linemen, all the linebackers, and I'll be shocked if all the defensive backs don't play."
One of the Jayhawks who will play for sure is sophomore Toben Opurum, who moved from running back to linebacker a few weeks ago. If there was any doubt about whether Opurum would contribute this season, there shouldn't be any now. Torbush hopes that Opurum will get anywhere from 10 to 20 snaps Saturday.
"He does have an outstanding nose for the football," Torbush said. "He uses his hands real well. He's a big guy that's physical. He looks like a linebacker. In my mind, there's no question that the day he moved over there he made us better."
Only time will tell.