Saturday, September 8, 2018

Notebook: RB Pooka Williams cleared for debut ‘late, late’ Friday night

Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. (1) runs down the field while playing against Central Michigan University on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2017 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. (1) runs down the field while playing against Central Michigan University on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2017 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant, Mich.


Mount Pleasant, Mich. — Exactly what kept Pooka Williams out of the Kansas football lineup a week earlier remained unclear following the freshman running back’s debut Saturday, which sparked a 31-7 road win at Central Michigan.

Shortly before kickoff of the Jayhawks’ season opener, the team announced Williams would not play against Nicholls State due to an undisclosed, non-disciplinary matter.

Following KU’s victory at Kelly/Shorts Stadium seven days later, head coach David Beaty did not offer many specifics when asked how it was determined Williams could suit up and participate in the game at CMU.

“I think the easiest thing for me to do is to talk about he was available today, and that’s about all we can say from there,” Beaty said after Williams rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns in his KU debut. “I don’t really have any other information other than he was available today, which was great.”

According to Beaty, he was informed “late, late” Friday night Williams could play.

What kept the star freshman out in the first place?

“That’s all they told me I could say at this point,” Beaty reiterated.

Williams became the first KU freshman to debut with 100 rushing yards since James Sims ran for 101 yards against Georgia Tech on Sept. 11, 2010. Additionally, Williams was the first freshman to score two touchdowns in his first KU game since JaCorey Shepherd had two receiving scores against McNeese State on Sept. 3, 2011.

Williams also was the first Jayhawk to rush for over 100 yards in a debut since Ke'Aun Kinner went for 157 rushing yards against South Dakota State on Sept. 5, 2015.

New look on O-line

After center Alex Fontana had issues with putting his snaps on target in KU’s Week 1 home loss, he didn’t retain his starting position at CMU.

Junior Andru Tovi, a starter at left guard the previous week, replaced Fontana at center in the starting lineup. Redshirt sophomore Malik Clark started at left guard.

The other three starters from the previous game, junior left tackle Hakeem Adeniji, senior right guard Dwayne Wallace and junior right tackle Kevin Feder, remained the same.

Fontana played as a reserve, though, and showed no problems snapping the ball effectively. He entered for the first time on KU’s third drive, along with sophomore Chris Hughes and junior Api Mane at the guard spots. Mane also took some snaps at center later in KU’s road win.

More debuts

Williams wasn’t the only Jayhawk playing his first career game for KU.

Redshirt freshman receiver Takulve Williams, junior cornerback Elijah Jones and junior corner Elmore Hempstead Jr. also made their debuts.

Takulve Williams recorded his first career reception on a pass from Peyton Bender for a 10-yard gain in the second quarter. Jones was credited with one total tackle and Hempstead didn’t record a statistic.

This and that …

• Senior KU receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. recorded a touchdown reception for the second straight game, on a 31-yard reception from Bender that gave the Jayhawks a 7-0 lead over the Chippewas.

• KU's defense recorded four interceptions, marking the first time since 2014 against Southeast Missouri that the Jayhawks have grabbed three or more interceptions. Senior linebacker Joe Dineen, senior corner Shak Taylor, junior safety Jeremiah McCullough and sophomore safety Ricky Thomas made the picks.

• Junior fullback Caperton Humphrey caught his first career reception on a pass from Bender for two yards in the first quarter.

• Sophomore punter Kyle Thompson kicked a career-high five punts inside the 20-yard line against the Chippewas.


Joe Ross 4 years, 2 months ago

Saturday was a satisfying win. Finally! Instead of bowl game appearances, Kansas celebrates individual wins. But as lowly as that standard may be, it would be wrong to take that away from the fans. After all we've been through we deserve a week of happiness. We only have that much per year on average. The cherry on top is the ending of the road drought, and we get to wipe the slate clean. But there are several questions that burn in my mind after watching the game:

Q. How does Long weigh this performance in his "ongoing evaluation" of Kansas football? Does this take the bad taste out of his mouth regarding Nicholls State (for now)? What affect will this win have on David Beaty's status?

A. This win feels good now, but when the dust settles by season's end and very likely before, David Beaty will be gone.

Q. How will the fans respond after the CM win?

A. Fans are fickle. Feel good after a win and Beaty should be given a chance. After a loss, they will be calling for his head again. Losses are in Kansas' future. About that there is no doubt. The short term provides the calm before the storm for Beaty. But the storm is already in the forecast.

Q. What will be the effect of a Rutgers win or loss next week?

A. Rutgers just lost 52-3 to 4th-ranked Ohio State. That loss may say more about Ohio State than it does about Rutgers, however. The Scarlet Knights beat Texas State by four touchdowns, 35-7, the week prior. Kansas is coming off a huge win, Rutgers off a huge loss. Kansas needs to enjoy the win for a day, but rip a page out of Mangino's playbook and keep sawin' wood. If they start to feel too good about themselves Rutgers will see to it that the party is drawn to a close with a quickness. In fact, no matter what Kansas' attitude is, Rutgers will win the game.

Q. Is Joe Dineen, Jr. a legitimate pro prospect? One game in, what do we project about Pooka Williams' career at Kansas? His NFL chances? Corione Harris'?

A. I don't know. But if I were a betting man I'd put my money on Dineen making a roster for a year or two.

Q. Is Beaty's strategy with Kendrick working or is it disruptive?

A. I think it's working. I like the mix-up. Throwing different looks at the defense keeps them off balance and presents another weapon that can exploit those defenses in a manner in which Bender cannot. I didn't have a problem with the use of Kendrick in either of the first two games. Time on the sidelines may even increase Bender's focus and keep him sharp. If Bender is not mentally fazed by the substitution--and it appears he isn't--I like the use of two quarterbacks with one playing certain package situations.

Jeff Kallmeyer 4 years, 2 months ago

" In fact, no matter what Kansas' attitude is, Rutgers will win the game."... we'll see.

Joe Ross 4 years, 2 months ago

Q. How do we weigh the Nicholl's State loss vs. the Central Michigan win, and what can be projected about the rest of the season from these two games?

A. Nicholl's State just lost by 25 points to in-state rival Tulane tonight. Tulane won every quarter. Tulane lost the week prior in a nail-biter to a very respectable Wake Forest team. But Tulane and Rutgers are probably an even draw. So if Tulane beat Nicholl's State by the margin, logically we could assume Rutgers might as well. And of course Nicholl's State beat Kansas on the Jayhawks' home field. But hold the phone. I think Kansas week 2 is better than who we saw week 1. In fact the biggest improvement from week to week in college football is between the first and second weeks. I'd predict Rutgers by 14 to 17 points come this weekend. With regard to Central Michigan, it looks to me like they're SEMO2.0 insofar as Kansas is concerned. The win might be fool's gold.

Q. Does Kansas win versus Nicholl's State if Pooka Williams plays?

A. Yes. Which really begs the question now about why he was held out. This question only leads to another question though: will Beaty ever divulge the reason for witholding him?

Q. Do you think Long has already contacted Les Miles?

A. If I had to bet my life on it, I'd say yes. Not that this mean Miles is coming here. But Long doesn't seem like the kind of guy who's going to put all of his eggs in one basket. It's just that many other coaches he'd probably be interested in talking to are already coaching, which leaves Miles nearly sole focus of Kansas right now.

Q. Which running back should start?

A. Whoever the best player is should start. I think that's Pooka Williams. Khalil Herbert is good. Might PW be better?

Q. How many people secretly wished Kansas would lose to expedite Beaty's ouster?

A. We'll never know, of course. But I admit to having being tempted by that logic prior to kickoff. One could have entertained the question about whether a win or a loss was the best result for Kansas in the long-term.

Micky Baker 4 years, 2 months ago

KU beats Nicholls State if they had been behind the sticks so much and not had the bad snaps. Pooka Williams looked impressive. Took the ball outside, the wide receivers held their blocks, and he scored. Then he deceived them later on with the cut back up the middle and CMU defenders thought they were going to get to the shifty fella.

I don't know how many but without a doubt there were some fans hoping KU would lose to speed up Beaty's ouster. They won't say it on this forum though.

Because I think Kansas would be 2-0 if the guys didn't shoot themselves in the foot in week One, I'll refrain from comparing a loss to a win. KU should have won in week One with or without Pooka.

I'm not going to make any predictions on the rest of the season though. I mean KU nearly pitched a shutout against a team that scored 45 points against them a year ago. 4 different guys recorded ints and one forced fumble by the secondary, all in the second half. You can tell the guys are on board with Dineen and Dineen is the leader of that unit, Reesing kind of leadership. How that translates in Big 12 play, we will know soon enough. Just keep sawin' wood. The players should know this, the coaches know it too.

Jeff Kallmeyer 4 years, 2 months ago

"Q. How many people secretly wished Kansas would lose to expedite Beaty's ouster? A. We'll never know, of course. But I admit to having being tempted by that logic prior to kickoff. One could have entertained the question about whether a win or a loss was the best result for Kansas in the long-term."

No true jayhawk fan would ever wish a loss.

Joe Ross 4 years, 2 months ago

I disagree. While I appreciate the perspective and would agree with it 99% of the time, the picture is different if you are playing for the short game or the long game. A loss means Beaty is out more quickly which could manifest itself in all of the following: a suitable replacement for Beaty, faster raising money, a sooner time to a new stadium, new and better recruiting and, very importantly, WINS!

Yes. A loss in a key situation can lead to WINS. Ask Texas who ousted Charlie Strong. A single loss to Kansas was the straw the broke the camel's back. His replacement has generated a much higher winning percentage than his predecessor. So a counter-argument to your perspective can be a true fan wants what makes the program better.

Hard to argue that a Beaty loss would not have ultimately made the program better FASTER.

Micky Baker 4 years, 2 months ago

It's hard to argue either way. If they fire Beaty, they better have someone already signed that has a good record at this level. Right now Kansas is a 3:1 favorite to win Saturday. We'll see at 11am Saturday.

Joe Ross 4 years, 2 months ago

Let's say I agree with you (I don't, but let's say...). Then if it's a toss up argument, then you can't question someone's fanhood if they hope that a Beaty loss causes a coaching change because the basis of their hope is that they want the program to improve. That's the point of all of this.

Steven Haag 4 years, 2 months ago

Everyone seems to think that Beaty held Pooka out. I don’t think so. In the interview Beaty said that HE found out late Friday that Pooka would be available to play. Look, if we know anything at all about Beaty, it’s that he genuinely loves those kids.....probably to a fault. I’m thinking it was something personal, or family. It had to be something pretty intense if Beaty is being that hush, hush,

Mike Tackett 4 years, 2 months ago

Think the Pooka thing thru. My guess another NCAA eligibility issue. Out of our my hands, can't comment, ect....

Joe Ross 4 years, 2 months ago

But why do we have to guess about it?

Coaches talk about eligibility issues openly when someone is held out. Why the secrecy?

I mean, address it without being so cryptic. "Pooka has a private personal matter he's dealing with." OR "Pooka has a injury he's working through". OR "Pooka's had a family situation come up."

What is the point of not even describing the nature of the situation?

Mike Hart 4 years, 2 months ago

Because if it has something to do with NCAA (eligibility, etc)... Coach can't comment on it. There are scenarios in which the coach is not allowed to speak about it. The fact that Beaty said he got word on it late Friday night.. indicates it obviously was a decision outside his control. In so many words, he essentially said he can't comment on it (which to me means he is not allowed by someone else... to comment on it).

Joe Ross 4 years, 2 months ago

They can't comment on specifics. But they can certainly speak in generalities.

Micky Baker 4 years, 2 months ago

I suppose if it was an eligibility matter, it would have probably been disclosed. If it was a personal medical matter, none of our business.

Marcia Parsons 4 years, 2 months ago

I'm thinking academics. Maybe he had to retake a test and didn't get the new grade until late Friday? Coaches aren't allowed to speak of academics.

Steven Haag 4 years, 2 months ago

Maybe he’s being told to keep quiet by the new director of football operations that Long hired. Maybe, that’s the guy that will make these things public. If it never comes out, I’m ok with that. I’m curious like everyone else, but perhaps it’s just none of my business

Barry Weiss 4 years, 2 months ago

I agree with Joe, there should be more transparency on these deals. Anyway, congrats to Pooka on a great game, all the kids and coach Beaty and staff. Sure would be nice to knock off a B1G team next week. Let's go Jayhawks!

Dane Pratt 4 years, 2 months ago

I don't see the urgency in firing Beaty that so many others insist on. What does it accomplish if we fire our head coach mid-season or at season's end. Unless it allows us to hire an unemployed coach like Les Miles, all it does is satisfy fans who can't wait for Beaty to go.

If the wheels fall off and we get crushed week after week by conference opponents then it's time to part ways for the sake of the players.

Micky Baker 4 years, 2 months ago

If, and only if Les Miles is offered and takes the job and is signed to a contract, even if we don't know about it, you fire Beatty mid-season. But right now, Les Miles is the only guy I can think of that would justify that. But not if there's just a "chance" to get him here, if he's a lock to come here.

David Kemp 4 years, 2 months ago

I disagree with joe on one thing. I think momentum and mentality are a great intangible. Couple that with the return of Todd Reesing and I think we beat Rutgers. I watched OSU and the score easily could have been 80-0.

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