Cummings in at QB as Kansas looks to future

Cummings in at QB as Kansas looks to future

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) The senior quarterback has taken a seat and the freshman is under center, perhaps the clearest indication yet that Kansas is starting to focus on the future.

Coach Charlie Weis sat Dayne Crist late against Oklahoma State two weeks ago and put Michael Cummings into the game, and he performed well enough to warrant the start last week at Oklahoma.

While it turned out to be a forgettable debut as a starter for the Jayhawks, Weis is sticking with his young quarterback for Saturday's game against Texas.

``I think at this point, when you are 1-6 and things haven't gone real well, you owe it to your team to see what you've got,'' Weis said.

So who is this unheralded kid getting the nod over the once-highly touted Crist?

Cummings is a multisport athlete from Killeen, Texas, who was recruited by former coach Turner Gill after getting little Division I attention because of his size. The 5-foot-10 athlete received other offers, but those schools wanted him to play another position, and Cummings' dream was always to play quarterback in the Big 12.

Kansas seemed like a good place to give it a try.

``I kept my faith, kept my nose to the grindstone and kept working,'' said Cummings, whose recruitment fell off when he hurt his ACL his senior season in high school.

Cummings remembered the conversation he had when Weis took over the Jayhawks. The two of them sat down in his office and Weis told him that he wasn't planning to make the raw quarterback change positions, despite his size, and despite the fact that Crist was a former five-star recruit and another one - Jake Heaps - was also transferring into the program.

``As long as I got a chance to compete, that's all you can ask for,'' Cummings said.

That's precisely the demeanor that teammates have come to expect of him.

Running back Tony Pierson said Cummings has a quiet strength and confidence that seems to rub off on the Jayhawks (1-6, 0-4 Big 12).

``Mike is a cool guy. He's honest, he's laid back,'' Pierson said. ``He's a real nice guy to be around all the time.''

Against Oklahoma State, Cummings replaced Crist late in the third quarter and led two scoring drives to give Kansas a chance to win the game. The rally fell short, but his performance sparked a battle for the starting spot, and he ultimately got the nod against the Sooners.

He's only completed 50 percent of his passes for 198 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, but he's also gaining experience in the most difficult situations imaginable for a team struggling to find wins, and with his first start coming at Norman, Okla.

``Mike's got a good set of quarterbacking skills, but the one thing he was lacking was experience,'' said Ron Powlus, a former Notre Dame quarterback who works with the Jayhawks' signal-callers. ``The more reps he gets, the better he gets.''

Cummings has known since Tuesday that he would be starting against Texas, but true to his nature, he said that does not affect his routine.

``I am just going to prepare all week like I know how, take the coaching from the coaches all week and just go into the game confident and ready,'' Cumming said.

With five games left in the season, Cummings understands that this is his opportunity to make a case for next year's starting spot.

``I can build a foundation with the players and coaching staff,'' he said, ``so they can trust me when I am on the field to lead them to victory.''

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Somehow, the Redskins still have a fairly straightforward playoff path. Somehow

Somehow, the Redskins still have a fairly straightforward playoff path. Somehow

You're going to feel absurd for reading the following sentence, but probably not as absurd as it felt to type the following sentence.

The Redskins, who are on their fourth option at QB, who made the '18 Giants look like the '72 Dolphins and who are large underdogs this weekend to the 4-9 Jaguars, actually still have a straightforward path to the playoffs.

Now, the word "straightforward" only applies to the path on paper, because realistically, there's nothing straightforward about fixing the litany of issues that are plaguing Washington at the moment.

Regardless, by losing on Monday night to the Seahawks, the Vikings blew a chance to separate themselves from a pack of NFC teams chasing(?) them and their final wild card spot. The Redskins are one of those teams, and here's how they could pass Minnesota to qualify for the postseason:

With the way the season is unfolding, you'd expect the Burgundy and Gold's playoff scenario to involve a bunch of teams losing a bunch of times in these final three weeks. The tweet above illustrates that's clearly not the case. They only need Minnesota to drop one more to go along with the Redskins winning out.

Of course, the Redskins stringing three straight plays together without committing a holding penalty feels like too much to ask for, so anyone expecting a three-game winning streak is either a bit crazy or a relative of Josh Johnson. But still, they're not out of the hunt quite yet. Somehow.


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Ravens have formula for both playoff and quarterback success down final stretch

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Ravens have formula for both playoff and quarterback success down final stretch

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- After experiencing misery in each of the past two Decembers, the Baltimore Ravens are looking to rewrite the script in their quest to end a three-year playoff drought.

In 2016, a loss to Pittsburgh on Christmas night ended Baltimore's bid to reach the postseason. Last year, a defeat at home against Cincinnati on New Year's Eve sent the Ravens home.

Now, with three games left, the Ravens find themselves in a familiar position. Baltimore (7-6) has a shot to reach the playoffs as either AFC North champions or as a wild-card team, and there's really only one can't-miss way to make it happen.

"The way we look at it, we need to win three games in a row," coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "We've been here before. Let's do it. But all we need to think about right now is Tampa Bay, our upcoming opponent."

There's a good chance the Ravens will have quarterback Joe Flacco available for the first time since Nov. 4 when they face the fading Buccaneers (5-8) at home on Sunday. Flacco, a former Super Bowl MVP and veteran of 15 playoff games, appears ready to return from a right hip injury that sidelined him for four straight games.

Fortunately for the Ravens, rookie Lamar Jackson has done a credible job in his first stint as a starter. Subbing for the injured Flacco, the former Louisville star and first-round draft pick guided Baltimore through three straight wins before Sunday's 27-24 loss in Kansas City on Sunday.

Jackson hurt his ankle in overtime against the Chiefs, but the injury evidently was not serious.

"Should be fine. Looks like it's OK," Harbaugh said.

If both quarterbacks are ready to go, Harbaugh must decide who to start and how to play them. Perhaps he already has.

"I'll just have to let you know -- if we want. It could entail anything right now," the coach said. "I know what we want to do. I have a plan. We have a plan. We talked about it. We have to talk to the guys about it, and whether we share that publicly, we'll decide as the week goes on."

The plan likely involves using both quarterbacks, just as the Ravens did before Flacco's injury. The difference now is that Jackson has more experience, and the Ravens have played exceptionally well with him at the helm.

"I haven't had a chance to sit down and talk with all the parties involved, but I think it stands to reason that if Joe's ready to go, he'll be part of the game plan," Harbaugh said. "He's too good a player not to be. We'll just figure that out as we go this week, to what degree and how it works. Everybody will know going in, except perhaps everybody outside."

Baltimore currently sits a half-game behind Pittsburgh within the division, thanks to the Steelers' surprising loss in Oakland on Sunday. Harbaugh learned of the defeat shortly before the team charter touched down on its trip from Kansas City.

"I was happy. Very happy," he said.

The Ravens have Tampa Bay, the Los Angeles Chargers (10-3) and Cleveland (5-7-1) left on the schedule. Pittsburgh (7-5-1) has New England (9-4), New Orleans (11-2) and Cincinnati (5-8).

Baltimore is also the sixth and final wild-card team in the AFC, so if the Steelers don't falter, the Ravens can still reach the postseason for the first time since 2014.

"It helps, sure," Harbaugh said of having multiple routes to the playoffs. "We just need to win games and let all that take care of itself."