If Kansas’ next football coach was watching prime time Saturday night, he probably realized his first order of business once he takes the job: Do whatever it takes to keep running back Pooka Williams on the roster.
KU’s true freshman running back had a standout game, rushing for a career-high 252 yards and also throwing a touchdown pass in the Jayhawks’ 55-40 loss to No. 6 Oklahoma on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla.
That wasn’t enough for an upset, yet it was part of an impressive effort as KU remained competitive after entering the game as a five-touchdown underdog.
For another day, KU’s coaching search went on without a definitive conclusion. Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger first reported Friday that former LSU coach Les Miles was in the process of finalizing a contract with KU, though Saturday came and went without any confirmation from the athletic department that a deal was imminent.
So, for most of the night on Fox’s broadcast, the attention remained on the two teams on the field.
Part of that was because KU played so well early for David Beaty in his second-to-last game as coach.
The Jayhawks put together a 93-yard touchdown drive late in the first quarter, with Williams’ 23-yard touchdown run giving KU a 7-0 lead.
Oklahoma’s offense, thanks to Heisman candidate Kyler Murray, was too good to be limited for the entire night. But KU did come up with a red-zone fumble recovery and also an interception to — a few times — slow down a Sooners offense that came in leading the nation in multiple statistical categories.
Williams, though, was the biggest story for KU. He rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another, dropping in a touch pass on the sideline to Jeremiah Booker early in the fourth quarter. He also added three receptions and finished at 16.8 yards per carry.
The two teams were chippy throughout, and even had to be separated by officials during a brief scuffle right before halftime. Much of the jawing back and forth likely was a carryover from last year’s game, where KU’s captains famously refused to shake Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield’s hand after the coin toss, which fired up both teams.
KU’s 40 points were the most scored in a conference game during Beaty’s four-year tenure.
The Jayhawks, 3-8 and 1-7 in the Big 12, will end their season with an 11 a.m. home game Friday against Texas.