Jayhawk Insider: Pooka Magic
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Jayhawk fans were able to check two long-awaited items off their lists on Saturday with Kansas football taking down Central Michigan 31-7 on the road. One of them involved breaking an unfavorable streak that began in 2009 – but the other involved a freshman phenom.
Kansas football fans have been waiting anxiously since Signing Day to see Louisiana native Pooka Williams Jr. make his debut in the Crimson and Blue. That day was Saturday – and what a debut it was.
On the first touch of his career, Pooka gained seven yards on a first-and-10 in the first quarter. His second touch – a nine-yard outburst. Already seeing flashes of his play-making ability, Jayhawk fans really saw what he could do when the Hahnville High School product and Greater New Orleans Male Amateur Athlete of the Year broke off a highlight-reel run in the third quarter to move the Jayhawks ahead by two scores.
Weaving his way through defenders and making a Chippewa completely miss at the 5-yard line, Pooka high-stepped his way into the end zone for the first score of his young career.
“He’s a guy that can score from anywhere,” senior quarterback Peyton Bender said of the freshman. “He’s super explosive and super slippery which makes it hard for people to tackle him. You can rely on him and he’s a big play type of guy.”
The big plays didn’t stop with his first touchdown, however, as the true freshman took his next carry to the house from 41-yards out.
Shaking a Central Michigan defender at the hashes of the 35-yard line, Pooka busted the run outside and streaked down the sideline for the score, leaping in to the end zone.
When all was said and done, the freshman finished the game with 125 rushing yards on 14 carries and one catch for eight yards.
“Pooka is unreal, man,” senior linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. said. “He’s a great kid and when he first got here, we knew we were going to get something special out of him. It’s surreal because you don’t expect that out of a young guy like that, so when he steps up, it’s huge. I’m excited to see what he can do later down the road, too. He’s going to be unreal.”
Pooka’s stat line put him in rare air in Kansas history, making him just the second true freshman in KU history to notch 100-plus yards rushing in their career debut, beating out James Sims’ 101 rushing yards against Georgia Tech in 2010 for the best debut by a true freshman. He was also the first Jayhawk to rush for 100-plus yards and two scores in a KU debut since Ke’Aun Kinner tallied 157 yards on the ground and two TDs in 2015 against South Dakota State.
Pooka and the Jayhawks look to carry momentum from Saturday’s road win into David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on September 15 when the Jayhawks host Big Ten foe Rutgers.