Abdul-Khaliq disillusioned with current situation

Anthony Maggio

Asad Abdul-Khaliq came to Minnesota as a freshman in 1999 thinking he would be the starting quarterback by now.

In the 1999 campaign, one which Abdul-Khaliq redshirted, then-senior quarterback Billy Cockerham led the Gophers to their first bowl game since 1986.

When the season concluded, it looked as though Abdul-Khaliq would inherit a team on the upswing.

Since then, he has split playing time with senior Travis Cole, and Minnesota is two losses away from dropping out of bowl contention this season.

“Unfortunately things don’t always go the way you want them to,” Abdul-Khaliq said. “I wish I could’ve been a two-year starter – maybe even up for the Heisman, or at least a candidate – but it didn’t go that way. I have to take another route, whatever that is, and make it work for me.”

Thus far, the route has been cluttered with indecision from week to week on who will start, and two quarterbacks being replaced seemingly on whim by coach Glen Mason.

Neither quarterback has been effective to this point, and the Gophers currently sit in 10th place in the Big Ten with a 1-4 record.

Abdul-Khaliq and Cole have nearly identical pass completion percentages, and Cole has thrown four touchdowns in 112 attempts while Abdul-Khaliq has one in 42 attempts.

Not exactly impressive.

So without a clear-cut choice at quarterback and the team nearing elimination from bowl contention, wouldn’t it be smarter to just go with Abdul-Khaliq for the rest of the way to get more experience under his belt?

“I’ve never done that,” Mason said. “If I think it’s the right thing to give us the chance to win now I’ll do it. But just because he has eligibility coming back you don’t give him the edge.”

Continuing to go back and forth between quarterbacks can’t be helpful, though, can it?

Perhaps the quarterbacks’ lack of rhythm is due to Mason’s constant swapping during games.

But quarterbacks coach Tony Petersen doesn’t agree with the popular perspective.

“For them, they don’t feel like there’s pressure that they’re going to get yanked or anything (for not making a play),” Petersen said. “It’s just not there.”

So without the pressure of immediate performance looming over their heads, Abdul-Khaliq and Cole are expected to be ready at any time.

But not knowing who will play when is beginning to wear on Abdul-Khaliq.

“It kind of hurts me personally because I really shouldn’t think about it,” Abdul-Khaliq said. “But as a quarterback it’s always in the back of my mind.”

Petersen doesn’t think his quarterbacks are distracted by doubts in the back of their minds.

Abdul-Khaliq isn’t so sure.

“To tell you the truth, that might be the reason I play the way I do,” Abdul-Khaliq said. “It’s kind of hurting me, but I have to find a way to get rid of it.”

Getting rid of lingering doubt could help Abdul-Khaliq return to where he thought he was two short years ago.

 

Anthony Maggio covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]