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Saturday, September 8, 2018

Keegan

Tom Keegan: KU football’s nightmarish road losing streak ends at 46

Members of the Kansas football team celebrate following the Jayhawks' 31-7 road win at Central Michigan, on Sept. 8, 2018, the program's first road win since 2009.

Members of the Kansas football team celebrate following the Jayhawks' 31-7 road win at Central Michigan, on Sept. 8, 2018, the program's first road win since 2009.

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Mount Pleasant, Mich. — In sports, long streaks of futility tend to end on a fluke play. Many a hitter has broken his batting slump with a swinging bunt single. A tipped ball that leads to an interception returned for a touchdown or a blocked punt is how football teams are supposed to score their first wins in a long time.

That’s not how it went down for the University of Kansas football team Saturday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium on the campus of Central Michigan University.

The longest road losing streak in the history of college football’s highest division ended with a dominant defensive performance and a spectacular college debut from a running back who was a fourth grader when it started.

Most of the Kansas players didn’t know many particulars, that it lasted 46 games or started in 2009. Few if any could have told you that four different head coaches and 11 different starting quarterbacks were part of the streak that included winless trips to 14 different states. But they’ll never forget what happened in Michigan, which would have been the 15th state.

They won’t forget the final score — Kansas 31, Central Michigan 7 — or that Pooka Williams, unavailable for the season opener for reasons that have not been disclosed — dropped jaws with touchdown runs of 20 and 41 yards. He rushed for 125 yards on 14 carries, an average of 8.9 yards per carry, and did it operating like a sports car darting around minivans, changing directions so sharply at such high speeds.

Look for some smart Lawrence entrepreneur to advertise a sale on puka shells and look for them to start showing up around the necks of KU football fans and students.

And then there was the defense that allowed just one first down in the entire first half and intercepted four second-half passes on a day that Central Michigan had six turnovers, all in a second half that Kansas won, 24-7.

It was as if just watching Pooka Williams streak through the CMU defense made everyone on the visiting team play a little faster in slaying the streak.

Senior Kerr Johnson, in his second season in the program, captured what heading home from road trips during his junior season felt like.

“Terrible,” said Johnson, whose 31-yard touchdown reception from Peyton Bender accounted for the 7-0 halftime lead. “Just get on the bus. Then get on the plane. Nobody’s talking. Everybody’s upset, just thinking about how we can get better.”

As for the trip he was about to head on, Johnson said, “Oh, it’s going to be a party.”

Kansas fourth-year head coach David Beaty coached the final 16 games of the road losing streak. Throughout it, he took the approach of hardly ever referencing it with his team.

“For our program, for our fans, for our stakeholders, it was really important that we ended that,” Beaty said. “Our fans deserve better. I’m glad it’s over.”

Pooka’s two touchdown runs made it feel close to over, but it wasn’t until Shakial Taylor returned an interception 55 yards to the end zone to give KU a 28-7 lead with 14:44 remaining that the game felt out of reach.

“Basically, I sat in my zone, sat in my coverage, he didn’t see me, I baited him and I picked it off,” Taylor said. “As soon as I picked it off, I saw two big guys and I saw green in the end zone and there was no way I was going down.”

No way he was going to be denied the thrill of doing something he said he never had done, not even as a child.

“I’ve had a lot of picks, but not any pick sixes,” Taylor said. “That was my first one. I couldn’t believe it. It was an unbelievable feeling, almost like a dream.”

A dream that helped to end a recurring nightmare that had been playing since 2009.

Comments

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 2 weeks, 3 days ago

shakial, that was a play i knew was there. good job. pooka's good but only as good as his line. we can do better. nobody thought we could with our last bowl team but they believed.

Eric Eakins 2 weeks, 3 days ago

The way I look at it, Pooka is undefeated on the road as a Jayhawk.

Kenny George 2 weeks, 3 days ago

This link should be required reading for all LJW sports department and also all posters of this message board...great insight by Kevin Flaherty as to how KU football program got to where it currently is...

https://247sports.com/Article/How-Kansas-football-has-gone-from-Orange-Bowl-to-sour-121535976

Ray Winger 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Thanks for the posting. Great Read. I had no idea that it was as severe as ncaa sanctions.

Dane Pratt 2 weeks, 2 days ago

To a larger extent I believe it has been a numbers problem and not an X’s and O’s issue but I can’t overlook the latter part of the equation. When we get beat by teams with less talent or talent that is no better than ours that tells me the problem is with the coaching.

It doesn’t help that the worst era in KU history is on the heels of the best season in the history of KU football. The contrast begs for comparison.

Jeff Coffman 2 weeks, 2 days ago

As mentioned, this forgets to put blame on TG for getting recruits that would not be able to make it Academically. Additionally, it doesn't align the issue with Beaty in that he hasn't been able to recruit as expected and has used JC recruits.

It might be good, but it shifts blame away from some of the key people that have caused the issue and Beaty who has made it just as bad and with Blue Shirts has made it worse.

Gary McCullough 2 weeks, 3 days ago

After throwin' shade at the HC and his staff for at least 2 years, I think the "Never Beaty" posters here should be showing the football team some love. They went on the road and won a game the sports book said we should lose. And won convincingly! The defense blew up the turnover ratio. And the offense found a solid running game that will serve as a foundation on which to build.

Come on guys. Give it up for a great performance on both sides of the line this week.

Jeff Coffman 2 weeks, 2 days ago

I would fire him tomorrow still. The expectation was 6 wins last year. And I would have expected a 3-0 start this year, which was not met. This might be as good as it gets under Beaty.

I don't think Beaty has earned it.

Jason Venable 2 weeks, 2 days ago

With this win I can just see it now...15 or maybe 16 high-school players are about to commit.

Joe Baker 2 weeks, 2 days ago

This is not the end, but the beginning of winning? What do you say if KU loses their next game? They got a win, but if we are satisfied and content with a team thats just worse than KU, we are going to have another repeat of seasons past.

Let's hope they build on this win. Let's hope this is the beginning of something special. I'd like to see a KU team beat OU once in my life time. This is my hope and why not? OU can be beat on any given day.

They've proven they can win. If we are relying on Pooka each game, it's going to be rough. All teams are going to do is focus on him. If Pooka has a bad game, so goes KU.

Rick Holmes 2 weeks, 2 days ago

You are only 19 years old? KU last beat OU in 1999

Freddie Garza 2 weeks ago

...and with an incredibly disappointing loss to the Jayhawks, Central Michigan is now considering a complete overhaul of their football program.

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