LAWRENCE — For a window into the newfound buzz surrounding the Kansas football program, look no further than the official Twitter account of the Lawrence Police Department.
Riding the program’s first winning streak since 2011, the Jayhawks (2-1) open Big 12 play against Baylor (2-1) in a 2:30 p.m. Saturday contest at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas. KU has notched 24- and 41-point victories in its last two games, both over FBS opponents.
Given the rock-bottom nature of the Jayhawks’ last several seasons, the team has delivered to its fans the first two-game stretch of hope in seven years, a feeling expressed in the tweet sent by the Lawrence Police Department on Wednesday night and directed at their counterparts in Tuscaloosa, Ala., home of the college football dynasty Crimson Tide.
“We’re thinking about prepping for a #CFP celebration,” the department tweeted, referring to the four-team College Football Playoff that determines a national champion. “(KU football) is on a roll. Got an operations plan we can borrow? All ours are for basketball.”
The tweet embodied the blend of sarcastic, almost self-deprecating optimism widespread at the moment among cautious Jayhawk fans, though a victory Saturday could go a long way toward making that excitement genuine.
KU enters Week 4 with both the nation’s best turnover margin (plus-12) and perhaps the conference’s most exciting newcomer — freshman running back Pooka Williams has piled up 283 rushing yards and three touchdowns on only 32 career carries. Three other Jayhawk running backs have already eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark, and that group is averaging 7.4 yards per carry.
Members of the Jayhawk men’s basketball team are also taking notice of the football team’s success, evident in some of the tweets sent during last Saturday’s 55-14 romp over Rutgers.
“Looks Like Pooka Will Get Us To A Bowl Game This Year,” tweeted sophomore guard Marcus Garrett, capping the message with a goat (G.O.A.T.) emoji.
“Let’s gooooooooooo! Ku football babyyyyy,” tweeted junior forward Mitch Lightfoot, shortly after retweeting a Photoshopped image of himself and junior center Udoka Azubuike hanging from the goal posts at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
Over the top? Perhaps, but the growing hype around the football program is something the team’s beleaguered upperclassmen have spent years building toward.
“Obviously if you’re on social media, we see some buzz. It’s great to have that,” said senior linebacker Keith Loneker. “We’re really just so happy to create some buzz and make the fans happy. It’s what our goal is; it’s what our goal’s always been.”
Fourth-year coach David Beaty deferred to the players on the subject of buzz — “I live in this building. There’s times when I drive out of my driveway and we’re supposed to be heading to Menards or something and my car goes to this building,” he said.
Within the walls of Anderson Family Football Complex, though?
“We tend to keep our head down, and I don’t mean that to be disrespectful,” Beaty said. “I just know that there’s a buzz around our facility from our players.”
Skeptics would call all of this a precursor to a potential rude awakening Saturday.
The Jayhawks have never won in eight all-time tries at Waco, dropping their last four contests there by an average margin of 40.75 points. And while Las Vegas anticipates a close contest — the Bears are 7½-point favorites — the Jayhawks were also 7½-point underdogs ahead of last season’s matchup, an eventual 38-9 road victory for a Baylor team that finished that season 1-11.
Winning in Waco may require the Jayhawks to fully embrace the message senior defensive tackle and captain Daniel Wise delivered in last Saturday’s victorious postgame locker room, a statement echoed Tuesday by junior nickelback Bryce Torneden.
“We haven’t arrived yet,” Torneden said. “(The blowout victories) are a testament to the potential we think we can have, but we haven’t done that yet.”