November 02, 2009
Three weeks ago, Kansas was 5-0 and coach Mark Mangino was stumping for his quarterback's Heisman credentials. After two straight losses and another three-and-a-half quarters of malaise Saturday at Texas Tech, Mangino decided he'd seen enough of Todd Reesing -- trailing 35-21 with seven minutes to go and still within striking distance against a notoriously forgiving secondary, unfortunately named redshirt freshman Kale Pick took the field in place of the fifth-year senior, and didn't sugarcoat the decision to put his star on the bench in his 34th consecutive start:
"The last series he was in there, (Reesing) short-armed two passes and had a fumble [returned for a touchdown]," Mangino said. "More than anything, I thought maybe Kale would give us a little bit of a jump or something. I just didn’t feel good about the offense as a whole."
He can't feel much better today, when the "spark" Pick brought off the bench amounted to six yards on one completion, 21 yards rushing nothing like a scoring threat as the clock ticked down on the Raider victory. Reesing (along with some teammates, including star receiver Dezmon Briscoe) admitted he was "surprised" by the move and indicated he'd been struggling with a groin injury throughout KU's three-game losing streak, but he also admitted he's not one to make excuses in the midst of one of the worst performances of his career -- especially when it came just one week after the worst performance of his career, a three-interception, zero-touchdown disaster in a 35-13 loss at Oklahoma, where he was also responsible for offering up a defensive touchdown, on a first-quarter interception return that put the Jayhawks in a 14-0 hole.
Some of the locals think Reesing is clearly hurt, though Mangino and Reesing himself both downplayed injuries, and after some initial wavering, Mangino -- who was pretty much just generally angry at everyone after the loss -- said this morning that Reesing will be the starter for Saturday's crucial rivalry date with much-improved Kansas State. More tellingly about the trajectory of the team, though, is the fans' reaction: Almost two-thirds of respondents in an online poll in the Lawrence Journal-World Saturday night agreed with benching the most prolific quarterback in school history, and there are open debates on message boards ($) beginning with lines like, "I'm not letting Todd off the hook just because he has broken all our records."
Harsh -- when can you let a guy off the hook, then? -- but the fact is Kansas hasn't played well in any Big 12 games (its one win was a late comeback over very game Iowa State) and its season hangs in the balance Saturday in Manhattan. There it can salvage its hopes of winning the tangled-up North Division against first-place KSU, or it can fall headlong into an official tailspin that could keep the Jayhawks from even reaching a bowl game with Nebraska, Texas and Missouri waiting to finish them off down the stretch. Reesing's career also comes to a head against the Wildcats: A fourth consecutive loss could put KU on track to "playing for next year" mode, in which getting Pick on the field would be a priority. That scenario probably remains a long shot, but so was the quick hook on the best quarterback Kansas has ever had with the game on the line, until it happened. If there's anything left in their tanks, Reesing and Co. need to push the pedal to the floor at K-State.