LAWRENCE — This was a first for Carter Stanley.

And, judging by the commotion surrounding the Kansas football senior quarterback, the same could accurately be said of many Jayhawk fans in attendance Saturday.

Stanley and KU fell 29-24 to West Virginia at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, but even in defeat, the team showed enough signs of progress to keep the announced crowd of 35,816 engaged from start to finish — and then some. The best example of that came ahead on a third-and-goal midway through the third quarter, with Stanley actually having to flap his arms downward in an attempt to quiet his own supporters in the stands.

Asked later if it was the first time he’s had to hush a home crowd, Stanley confirmed: “One-hundred percent, yeah,” he replied with a grin.

“Which is a good thing,” Stanley continued. “Our fans were incredible today. That means the world to us. I’m incredible thankful for everyone that came out and supported. I hope they can come out and continue to support us for the rest of the year, for our home games certainly. No, that was an awesome crowd today.”

Saturday’s game ended 12 yards short of a miracle finish for the Jayhawks (2-2, 0-1 Big 12), with running back Pooka Williams shoved out of bounds at the conclusion of a 40-yard hook-and-ladder play that featured multiple successful laterals. As KU players departed the stadium through its southwest tunnel, many of the remaining fans offered one last sign of approval.

“They gave us a standing ovation after the game going into the locker room,” safety Mike Lee said. “That was my first time, like, ever hearing a crowd do that. So that’s saying that they here with us and they will always be here with us.”

The unexpected moment was a hot topic of conversation in the postgame locker room, particularly among the team’s veteran players.

“They were just saying that was a lot different from before,” recalled junior wide receiver Andrew Parchment, who transferred to KU in the offseason. “Usually the crowd would’ve walked out a long time ago, especially after we got down by two touchdowns. It was still a decent crowd out there, and I’m just happy that KU fans came out and supported us. ...

“You don’t see a lot of fans giving teams a standing ovation after a loss, especially in that fashion.”

What, then, was the driving force behind the positive send-off? Asked just that, Stanley’s response echoed what many of his teammates also theorized.

“I think they see the fight,” Stanley said. “I’m not into moral victories at all, but I think they see the progress.”

Parchment concurred.

“I just feel like a lot of people out here, they feel a difference in this team,” Parchment said. “Coach (Les) Miles, he’s invested in us, and we’re invested in him. As a team we have goals to get to a bowl game and win a Big 12 championship. That’s not going to change after this game, and I feel like the fans see that.”

Senior linebacker Najee Stevens-McKenzie goes out of his way to greet and thank fans after every home contest before heading back to the locker room — “Without them, we’re nobody,” he said.

“They saw improvement,” Stevens-McKenzie said. “They saw a team that’s fighting. They saw a team that’s not about to lie down. They saw a team that’s not about to back down. They saw a team that fought all the way ’til the end, ’til it hit double-zeroes.”

KU has averaged 33,973 fans across its first three home games, a vast improvement from the 23,571 averaged across the same span last season. Saturday’s crowd was the largest at Memorial Stadium since a Wildcat-aided tilt against Kansas State in 2017.

Noise from Jayhawk fans appeared to even coax a false start penalty from the Mountaineers late in the third quarter.

“The energy the fans brought us today, that’s all we can ask for,” Williams said. “Some people left, but the ones that stayed, they really KU fans, and they seen us fight through the end. They gave us more energy in the fourth quarter when we was on the last drive.”

Miles said he was “thrilled” with Saturday’s turnout.

“I just was very thankful that the people that came into that stadium enjoyed what they saw, because those kids were playing their hearts out,” Miles said. “And I am thrilled for our players because I want you to know something: It's not easy finishing second in the game and coming to practice and busting your tail, because we’re going to bust our tail again, and they know it. And yet, that fan base that's giving them a standing ‘O’ and enjoying how they played makes a difference. It really does. And we thank them.”

KU will look to rebound at 11 a.m. Saturday at TCU (2-1, 0-0) before returning home for a daunting matchup against No. 4 Oklahoma on Oct. 5. As athletic director Jeff Long indicated in a Saturday night tweet, maintaining this level of fan participation will be key not only against the Sooners but moving forward in the program’s rebuilding effort.

"Thank you to all of our fans for showing up, staying through the game and supporting to the end," Long wrote. "Fans in the stands will be the reason we are successful and prospective (student-athletes) see and feel the difference!!"