Saturday, October 1, 2011

On Indiana’s QB Situation and Code Reds

Is there now a bonafide Indiana quarterback controversy? Should an injury cost a starter his job?

History provides some answers. Wally Pipp and Drew Bledsoe lost their jobs to injury and never regained them -- Lou Gehrig for Pipp, Tom Brady for Bledsoe. Yes, Pipp sat out a game because of a headache and never got back in, so is a headache really an injury, but that’s missing the point, which is should Dusty Kiel replace Edward Wright-Baker as the starting quarterback for the Hoosiers (1-4).

Here’s what we know. Wright-Baker missed the 16-10 loss to Penn State because of an ankle injury. He missed all of last week’s practices, which we didn’t find out until after the game, when coach Kevin Wilson confirmed it.

Kiel went 22-for-45 for 184 yards, one touchdown and one interception. That’s not exactly Brady like, until you realize Kiel’s receivers dropped at least four passes that would have gone for at least 50 yards.

That was a follow-up to his North Texas performance, when he went 7-for-12 for 145 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. That he did it against a pass defense that disappeared quicker than you can ask, did Darius Willis have another pro wrestling adventure while IU played, doesn’t diminish the fact that he did it.

Penn State, by the way, might not be the greatest team in coach Joe Paterno’s epic tenure, but it does have a good defense. Kiel showed promise against it, although he was not flawless.

“He was okay,” Wilson said. “He went the wrong way some times, but he played well.”

For the season Wright-Baker is 80-for-129 (62.0 percent) for 925 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Kiel is 33-for-63 (52.4 percent) for 356 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Neither of them reminds anyone of Peyton Manning. Some of it is inexperience (this is their first major playing time), some of it is nobody on the planet can do what Peyton Manning does.

Anyway, Wilson figures Wright-Baker will be healthy for Monday’s practice, which should lead to all sorts of speculation further fueled by the fact IU’s practices are closed, so no one knows what’s going on except those with access to satellite technology, not that we’re admitting to such things.

“We’ll have both of them as we move forward,” Wilson said, “and if there is an issue of a controversy or who we got, we’ll figure that out Monday.”

Wright-Baker beat out Kiel because of fewer turnovers in preseason camp. Ball security is the key component to the quarterback position and Wright-Baker, apparently, had the edge.

Kiel seems to have closed that gap.

“He needs the supporting cast to play better,” Wilson said. “He also has some glitches, but he’s coming along. When we got in rhythm, when we blocked, when the protection was there, the offense was solid.”

What does Kiel think? There’s no way to know. Kiel revealed nothing in his post game comments other than he’s really good about saying nothing. That’s probably smart, but it does nothing for those of us looking for the next big thing now that Brad-Jen-and-Angelina Jolie are in a quiet phase.

Anyway, what did Kiel say? Here’s a sample:

Media: What about the competition between you and Wright-Baker?

Dusty: “Ed is a good friend of mine. We’ll push each other every day and get ready for Illinois.”

Media: What did you learn (from the Penn State game)?

Dusty: “Those Big Ten guys are pretty big. We’ve got to keep working.”

Media: Why was the offense better the last two drives?

Dusty: “I’m not sure. We’re working trying to get better. Guys are making plays.”

Media: Did you order the Code Red?

Dusty: “You’re God-damned right I did!”

Ah, hah. We knew it. Now we can …

Okay, the tape recorder got a little fuzzy on the last question and answer, but you get the drift. Enlightenment will have to come from seeing who starts against Illinois (yes, that’s unbeaten and nationally ranked Illinois) next Saturday, and then who performs better, because figure both will play.

In the meantime, where’s Jack Nicholson when you need him?

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