LAWRENCE — This was not a game, but that didn't stop Kansas quarterback Kale Pick from treating it like one. He showed up to the Anderson Family Football Complex earlier than normal for Saturday's final spring practice, smeared two strips of eye black across his cheeks and went over some last-minute assignments with his teammates.
So with 8 minutes, 58 seconds left in the scrimmage and the Blue team needing a touchdown to take the lead over the White team, it didn't matter that the clock at Memorial Stadium was set to keep running regardless of the play's result or that the guys across the line of scrimmage also had KU stickers on their helmets. When Pick found out he was being handed the last drive, he could tell that he was not alone in feeling this was an important moment, game or no game.
"The Blue team had some drives that stalled," Pick said. "When I got back to the Blue team, some guys were a little stressed out, saying, 'Let's go, we gotta get in the end zone.' As a quarterback, you gotta calm them down and make sure they realize that it's play by play. You don't need to be worried about the drive."
Play by play, Pick moved the Blue team down the field. He hit tight end A.J. Steward for 8 yards and wide receiver D.J. Beshears for gains of 10 and 11. On first-and-10 from the White team's 37-yard line, KU offensive coordinator Chuck Long called for a series of "go routes" from his wide receivers.
Pick, taking the snap from under center, dropped back to pass, stepped up into the pocket and lofted a ball toward a streaking Christian Matthews along the right sideline. Cornerback Ryan Murphy was stride for stride with Matthews, a converted quarterback, so Pick deliberately underthrew Matthews, who adjusted and came back to the ball, making the grab for a 37-yard touchdown.
The Blue team, made up of mostly first-team offensive players and second-team defensive players, won the scrimmage 14-10. And Pick took a big step toward earning the faith of his teammates and his new coaches by completing 14 of 22 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns in stints with both sides.
"Kale had a nice day today," Long said. "I'm really pleased for him. You find out a lot (playing) in front of people. It's hard to simulate that."
Pick had the better day, but KU coach Turner Gill said that there is no leader in the competition between the sophomore Pick and redshirt freshman Jordan Webb, who completed 8 of 13 passes for 46 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Webb hit tight end Tim Biere for the game's first score, a 20-yard strike that put the Blue team up 7-0 early in the second quarter. On the ensuing drive, with Pick quarterbacking the more inexperienced White team, he received a challenge from redshirt freshman receiver Chris Omigie.
"I told Kale, 'Hey, Jordan has a touchdown. Right now, he's one up on you,' " Omigie said. "Kale looked at me and was like, 'Well I guess we gotta get in the end zone.' "
Sure enough, Long called a "go route" for Omigie, who burned by cornerback Tyler Patmon. Pick saw the safety bite on a play-action fake out of the shotgun and lofted a perfect pass to Omigie for a 72-yard touchdown.
The long passes to Matthews and Omigie helped salvage the afternoon for the KU offense and put a damper on what was otherwise a solid defensive showing from KU defensive coordinator Carl Torbush's unit.
"For us to be where we need to be as a defense, that's one thing we're not gonna be able to do," Torbush said. "If people score on us, they're gonna have to take a lot of time and go a long way. You give up points quick, you got a problem."
The defense held the offense to 1.2 yards per carry on run plays and tallied nine sacks. Gill's only complaint with his young quarterbacks had to do with that high number.
"The No. 1 thing is get rid of the football," Gill said. "That's something that is a key to a quarterback — keeping us in a manageable down. You can't have second-and-longs. That's gonna happen occasionally, but it happened too much today."
Pick took three sacks, but Long suggested that Pick would have avoided some of the negative plays with his feet if he wasn't being protected by a red jersey and a quick whistle from the officials.
And when it mattered most, Pick wasn't afraid to make a tough throw into coverage.
"He's starting to develop a deep ball," Long said. "He had some confidence in Christian Matthews and threw it up to him, and Christian made a play. Those are good things to see."
White0 10 0 0 — 10 Blue0 70 7 — 14
B—Biere 20 pass from Webb (Branstetter kick), 13:55
W—Omigie 72 pass from Pick (Matthews kick), 13:35
W—Branstetter 36 FG, 4:19
B—Matthews 37 pass from Pick (Branstetter kick), 3:29
Rushing—White, Sands 7-29, Opurum 7-9, Pick 2-8, Burton 2-3, Mecham 1-(-4), Morse 1-(-7), Webb 5-(-10). Blue, Quigley 7-33, Lewis 5-15, Beshears 1-5, Webb 1-(-2), Mecham 1-(-4), Pick 5-(-22).
Passing—White, Pick 4-8-92-0, Webb 3-4-4-0, Morse 3-3-25-0, Teahan 1-2-10-0, Mecham 1-1-3-0. Blue, Pick 10-14-122-0, Webb 5-9-42-1, Mecham 2-6-10-1.
Receiving—White, Omigie 4-95, Knighton 3-9, Schilling 2-8, Sands 1-12, Harris 1-9, McGriff 1-1. Blue, Beshears 5-38, patterson 4-15, Biere 3-56, Wilson 3-20, Matthews 1-37, Steward 1-8.