LAWRENCE — Kansas football’s most important player hasn’t wavered on his lofty goals for this season.
And as that player explained earlier this week, that rings true both individually and on other levels.
“(We’re) real close,” said sophomore running back Pooka Williams of the Jayhawks (2-2, 0-1 Big 12), who face TCU (2-1, 0-0) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. “I mean, I feel like we going bowling.”
An All-Big 12 preseason selection, Williams’ contributions going forward will perhaps play the biggest role in whether the program indeed accomplishes the improbable and reaches its first postseason in over a decade.
According to Williams, he’s on the cusp of doing just that.
The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder is averaging 5 yards per carry across 296 attempts through three games — he was suspended for the opener following an offseason arrest that led to a misdemeanor domestic battery charge.
In other areas, however, Williams has struggled to follow a freshman campaign that produced 7 yards per carry, 1,414 yards from scrimmage and nine total touchdowns. As a pass catcher this season, Williams has hauled in six receptions for just 10 yards and no touchdowns. Williams has just one score, a 12-yard scamper in the team’s upset victory at Boston College.
Williams acknowledged he’s been shaking off rust since his return but said he felt he took a big step forward in the team’s most recent contest against West Virginia — the former four-star recruit carried 15 times for 76 yards, including a highlight-worthy about-face in the backfield that turned a potential big loss in to a 10-yard gain.
“Reversing fields, that was the best I ever reversed fields,” Williams said of the play. “It was just rust (before). Now I feel like I’m back in the groove again.”
Les Miles seems to agree.
“Pooka is the offensive piece that we have to get involved, and we have to count on him getting 10 touches or more every game,” Miles said. “Tell you one thing: Everything that he’s done for us has been spectacular. How he gets the last 3 yards of his carry — he’ll have a long stay in the league right above this one.”
Relayed that message from Miles, Williams said the head coach hasn’t yet said that to him and added he “probably won’t tell (him) that" directly. Still, coming from the mouth of an individual that has sent truckloads of talent to the NFL, it was an observation Williams indicated he was appreciative.
“It means a lot,” Williams said, “but at the same time, that makes me more humble, makes me fight harder for the team and, you know, do everything in my power.”
As for Miles’ other note — that the Jayhawks have to find more ways to get the ball in the elusive speedster’s hands — Williams shrugged it off, especially on the heels of a game which saw the KU offense average 7.4 yards per play in defeat.
“I mean I’ve heard of it, but at the same time I’m not going to sit here and say I need the ball, because I’m a team player,” Williams said. “Everything was going well (against West Virginia) and by everything going well I’m not going to cry big for the ball. I’m a team player and whatever the team needs, that’s going to happen.”
Before he has the opportunity to join some of his idols at the next level — the New Orleans native just earlier this week tweeted pictures of himself and Saints superstar running back and personal “role model” Alvin Kamara with the caption “Baby Kamara” — Williams will have a say in the rebuild of a program that hasn’t earned a bowl berth since its last winning campaign in 2008.
Williams got a glimpse of that sought after future last season in the Jayhawks’ 27-26 home victory over the Horned Frogs, the lone highlight in a Big 12 slate that otherwise included eight setbacks. That win, Williams said, should provide ample confidence heading into Saturday’s matchup, where KU enters as a 15½-point underdog.
“I feel like we going bowling,” Williams reiterated. “It’s just, you’ve just got to stay on the right track and don’t let this one loss, the losses we had before, distract us from what we’ve got going on in the future.”
KANSAS AT TCU
Kickoff: 11 a.m. Saturday, Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
Records: KU 2-2 (0-1 Big 12); TCU 2-1 (0-0 Big 12)
TV/Radio: FS1/Jayhawk Radio Network
Line: TCU by 15½
Next for KU: vs. Oklahoma, 11 a.m. Oct. 5, David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Lawrence