LAWRENCE — One quarterback kept his answers short but said that his confidence would not be shattered by Kansas' 6-3 loss to North Dakota State. The other couldn't stop talking and effused positive vibes about the rest of the season.
The reason for the difference in tone was obvious: Starter Kale Pick had been pulled from the game by his coaches, and backup Jordan Webb was sent in on a rescue mission. Webb ultimately failed, too, but he only had 11 minutes to get the job done. On Saturday night, he sounded like a guy who wanted more time.
"Quarterback is a position unlike any other in sports," Webb said. "I'm definitely going to step up as a leader. I think the guys look at me as a leader. When I came in, everybody was in my face. They were really excited to see what I could do. Hopefully, what I showed tonight is enough to get some confidence from other people as well."
Those other people are likely KU coach Turner Gill and offensive coordinator Chuck Long, who couldn't pull the right strings for most of four quarters against the Bison. Gill said Sunday night after reviewing the tape that he did not know who would start for the Jayhawks against No. 16 Georgia Tech this weekend.
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"We felt like we've always had two good quarterbacks," Gill said. "We'll continue to evaluate, and hopefully we'll find the right guy as soon as possible."
Pick's numbers — he completed 13 of 22 passes for 138 yards and a costly interception — were not unforgiveable. It was a problem of rhythm, an off beat from the start that Webb couldn't correct in completing 6 of 11 passes for 59 yards.
"We just were not in sync totally," Gill said. "That's unfortunate. We thought we'd be a little further along at this time."
Of course, the offensive line sets the pace, and there was no way to put a positive spin on the showing up front. Both Pick and Webb were sacked twice, and KU produced just 46 yards on 20 traditional running plays between Angus Quigley, Deshaun Sands and D.J. Beshears.
Gill said he considered playing one of the true freshmen, James Sims and Brandon Bourbon, but he didn't feel comfortable putting one of them into the game cold once they had not gotten a carry by the early part of the third quarter. Gill said he would play at least one of them "for sure" against the Yellow Jackets.
Bourbon, a 6-foot-1, 208-pounder out of Potosi, Mo., was one of the top players in Gill's first recruiting class, a four-star recruit that joined KU as a late addition. Sims, a 6-foot, 206-pounder out of Irving, Texas, committed to play for Mark Mangino's staff and kept his allegiance when Gill arrived.
In the passing game, the Jayhawks will need more production from their receivers if they are going to turn their season around. Veteran Johnathan Wilson caught six passes for just 25 yards, while the talented Bradley McDougald hauled in two for 31. Slot receiver Daymond Patterson was the lone bright spot with four catches for 66 yards and three rushes for 63 yards.
Tight end Tim Biere, known as one of the more reliable pass-catchers, had the worst night. The only two balls he caught he fumbled to North Dakota State — the second ending a KU drive with just over 3 minutes left.
"That wasn't Tim out there," Webb said. "He's a great player. He's one of the best tight ends I've ever been around. We're gonna keep going to him. I have a lot of confidence in him."
Only Gill knows if Webb is going to get his shot to lead the Jayhawks, but there's no doubt the redshirt freshman will send the right message this week in practice.
"I think we're gonna be a solid football team," Webb said. "There are gonna be a lot of people doubting us after today. But we're Kansas. People doubt us every day. There's a lot of good football ahead for us."