To fully understand this article, you’ll need a little information about me. I’m not a born and bred Kansan. The Jayhawks haven’t been a huge part of my life for that long. This is my second year in Lawrence and I love it so far. Growing up in California, I didn’t pay much attention to college sports except for the weeks leading up to the draft. I’ve always kept an eye on KU hoops when I was back home in California, but I never claimed them as "my team" because I didn’t want to seem like a front-runner.
Anyways, a couple of years ago in the fall of 2012, I decided I was going to transfer from the college I was down in Santa Barbara, CA all the way to the University of Kansas. (The reasoning behind that is a completely different story). I tried to pre-adjust to Kansas life and adopted a couple of preconceived Kansas stereotypes. I started listening to country music, I started saying y’all (I guess Lawrence isn’t really as Kansas-y as I thought) and most importantly, I started watching KU football.
I figured, "Hey I’m going to be going to most of their games for the next three years, let’s get started on KU football a little early".
I knew going in that Kansas wasn’t going to be a football-centric school like Oklahoma or A&M, but I was still excited to root the Jayhawks on. I mentioned all of these things about me, because it brings me to the first ever KU football game I watched as a "Jayhawk fan".
October 13th, 2012. The Rainy Day Game, the Okie State Game. Whatever you want to call it, I’m sure most of you remember it. This game was my introduction to, not only Kansas football, but Kansas in general.
As I turned the game on, I noticed that the weather was a bit gloomy. I looked outside my window in Santa Barbara and the sky was as clear as can be and it was a crisp 72 degrees outside. A perfect Saturday afternoon to take a stroll down the beach. I looked back at the TV set and saw that the weather was getting worse in Lawrence. I always heard that the weather was going to be completely different when I move to Kansas, but this contrast was my first taste of it.
The game started off like I guess most KU games started off that year: poorly. The first quarter was pretty mundane and no one scored. Towards the end of the first quarter, it appeared that literal lightning struck down in Lawrence and it looked like some fans were heading home. The weather worsened and they eventually delayed the game for a bit.
I noticed something that I still remember to this day. As empty as the stands were that day, the fans that were there seemed to be having the time of their lives. I noticed a couple of students with signs out and cheering, and a couple other students just sitting down letting the rain fall down on them. I loved that. The team wasn’t good at all, but these devoted KU fans still seemed to enjoy their time at Memorial Stadium. I know I was back at home in my cozy apartment with perfect California weather, but I envied these Kansans that were standing out in the rain. I couldn’t wait to get out to Lawrence and earn the right to call myself a Jayhawk fan. Seriously, we talk about the lack of support that KU football gets, but I was impressed that day during that hour-long rain delay.
The game resumed after the weather improved and Oklahoma State took a 7-0 lead, which eventually turned into a 20-0 lead. Then-QB Dayne Crist left me completely underwhelmed. His passes were so off that I wondered how he was a starter on an NCAA team. The offensive line was mediocre at best and the defense didn’t look sharp at all. I gained more and more respect for the Jayhawk fans who were out there sticking it out with their team.
After not producing, Dayne Crist was replaced by Michael Cummings in the third quarter. Not knowing much about the roster, I figured this was just Charlie Weis throwing in the towel. It very well may have been, but the outcome was a lot different than I expected. Cummings began to do what Crist couldn’t; he was completing his passes, running the ball himself and eventually scored KU’s first touchdown of the game early in the 4th quarter.
It was 20-7 and we suddenly had a game. The Jayhawk defense stepped up and made the Cowboys’ offense virtually inexistent. Not only was the defense doing great, but now the offense was stepping up too. Being led by Cummings, the Jayhawks were now trailing just 20-14 and the crowd at Memorial Stadium was pumped. This was great. Kansas was going up against a good team and they were holding their own. With just a few minutes left, KU had a chance to actually win the game. It looked like something out of a Disney movie. Cummings and the Jayhawks rallied for one last drive to try to out KU ahead, but failed.
After all of the rain, the defensive stops and the momentum from the home team, the game ended and KU lost. It was a weird feeling for me. KU wasn’t supposed to lose this. This doesn’t really happen, does it? I checked the KU message boards and tweets, and most Jayhawk fans weren’t even disappointed! After reading through various posts, it looked like most fans were just happy to have had a close game at all. I wasn’t even really a KU fan and this game struck me harder than most actual KU fans.
This game was strangely poetic for me in a way. All of the rain signified some kind of weird omen to me and it seemed that this loss was a perfect introduction to life as a Kansas football fan. The game was right there and they lost it but it seemed that we should have been happy to just get that close in the first place. I continued to follow KU football that year and finally made my way out to Lawrence the next year. This was an exemplary game as for what to expect for KU football. I’ve experienced some good times with this team, mostly bad times, but I’m excited for all the times to come.
We all have our stories and specific games that we think make us an "official fan". Games when we realize that this team means something to you, and it’s more than just a game. This Oklahoma State was mine. Go ahead and share your first Jayhawk game with us. Or maybe tell us which game sticks out with you the most.
Rock Chalk, Jayhawk.