Full transparency: I was preparing to write this article about something not pertaining to the on-field product of the Kansas-Oklahoma matchup.
The consensus coming into Saturday night was that Kansas wouldn’t be able to compete against the sixth-ranked Sooners, and frankly, the game had taken a back seat to the coaching search and reports of Les Miles being closing in on the open job.
Then Pooka Williams became arguably the most electrifying player on the field, and that included Heisman hopeful Kyler Murray. With every spin move, broken tackle, and burst-stop-and-change-direction-on-a-dime sequence I watched, I no more changed my mind than had it changed for me.
Williams gained 252 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, caught three passes for 18 yards, and then—proving he can do whatever he wants on the field—threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Booker.
So yeah, plans changed. It’s time to talk Pooka.
Williams became the 13th player since 2000 to rush for more than 250 yards while averaging at least 16 yards per carry.
Williams is in pretty good company on this list, joining the likes of Melvin Gordon, Leonard Fournette, Jahvid Best, and Tavon Austin. And he is one of only seven on the list to do it against Power 5 competition. The only other Kansas player during that time period to rush for more than 200 yards with a yards-per-carry average north of 10 was Tony Pierson against Texas Tech in 2012 when he earned 202 yards on 16 carries for a 12.6 average.
The performance puts Williams over the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season in just 10 games. It’s the first time the Jayhawks have had a 1,000-yard rusher since James Sims in 2013, when he ran for 1,110. And those numbers are with Khalil Herbert still getting 109 carries for 491 yards.
The season Pooka’s had would be remarkable in any situation. But to do it as a true freshman when the passing attack is averaging less than 200 yards a game—meaning defenses make it a focus to stop the run—and having missed the first game of the year, speaks to the level of talent we haven’t seen much of late.
We now know Les Miles will be Kansas’ head coach next year, tasked with finally taking the KU football program out of the pit of D-I football. Along with salvaging a recruiting class for 2019, one of the top priorities for Miles should be to use his Louisiana connections to ensure Williams is happy with remaining a Jayhawk. Two more years, with a better offensive line and quarterback, and Williams could lead the team back to a bowl game as one of the best backs in the country.