Kansas catches football fever after stunning September

LAWRENCE, Kansas — The Kansas student known as Plunger Boy showed up at David Booth Memorial Stadium at 5:30 a.m. Saturday to make absolutely sure he got his front row seat to the football game against Duke. Countless times he had waited overnight for basketball games at Allen Fieldhouse. But early for a football game? Well, there’s a first time for everything. So Plunger Boy, aka Noah Ginsberg, came with a group of friends, a handful of signs, the signature Plunger headband he wears on his head (a gag gift from his dad, he says), and waited.

About two hours before kick-off, about 100 students had gathered waiting for the gates to open. A dizzying buzz filled the air as they asked themselves, “Are we really good at football?”

“Nothing excites a college fan base like a football team,” says Ginsberg.

even here?

“Here too,” he continues. “We asked for football to come back. I’ve waited a long time for this. My cousins ​​go to Clemson so I need to hear about it. Football brings people together and that’s what we want. KU-Football I know it starts on the pitch, but it also starts with the fans. If we get fans here again, it starts there.”

Getting fans to games was a tough job for Kansas Football. Prior to this season, Kansas had gone 12 straight years with three wins or fewer — tied with Kent State (1989-2000) for the longest streak by an FBS team since FBS and FCS split in 1978. Over 122 seasons have Kansas made it 12 bowl games and has an all-time record that is under .500.

Meanwhile, Kansas men’s basketball has one of the best (the best, if you ask Kansas fans) home atmospheres in America at the 16,300-seat Allen Fieldhouse — with a 336-game sell-out streak dating back to 2001. Fans come because they know they will see an elite team — Kansas are the defending champions with four total national championships. Last season, the Jayhawks overtook Kentucky to become the most successful Division I men’s basketball program of all time.

But there are die-hard football fans in Kansas, and they were proud to share their stories on Saturday. Ginsberg has been coming to the games since he was 8 years old. He went to the 2008 Orange Bowl when Kansas defeated Virginia Tech 24-21 to finish with a 12-1 record. As a student, he attended every game. So did his friend Alex Ailey, also a senior. On this special day, Ailey wears a red and blue spiked wig and a shirt that simply says “We are back,” which she bought three years ago in anticipation of this moment.

“You sit here and you’re like, ‘I’ve seen us lose at 45 every week,'” Ailey said.

“I saw how we lost when we were 60,” Ginsberg interjects.

“But I fell in love with this team my freshman year when we lost to Nicholls State,” says Ailey. “That was my first KU game. Even though we lost to an FCS team, I saw that this team is worth staying behind. I knew we would make it one day.”

Newcomer Bryce Erickson joins in next.

“There’s something about getting behind a team that’s trying to get over the hump that makes it so special to be here,” Erickson said. “You know KU basketball will be good, but you don’t know KU football will be good every year.”

Across the stadium, Dave Couch and his son Colin take their usual places to greet the football team as they arrive. They’ve done this for so long that the Couch family has become the Kansas family. Coach Lance Leipold and before him Les Miles and long before him Charlie Weis always made sure they stopped and said hello. So are players, administrators, players’ parents and security guards. If you follow Kansas athletics, you know the couches.

They got season tickets in 1996, the year Colin was born. Colin is in a wheelchair, the result of a traumatic birth. Dave explains that the doctors didn’t know if Colin would survive. But he did, and growing up, he bonded with football in a way that made him the team’s biggest fan. As Dave speaks, Colin makes sure to give high fives to players and assistants as they take to the field for pre-game warm-ups. An assistant yells, “This is a great day for a 4-0!”

“Colin has this mentality of being a warrior because he’s been fighting since the day he was born just to be here,” says Dave Couch. “So he can relate to what it means to be backed into a corner but not backing away from it. Sport in general has that, but in football you fight every game to try and win. Whether Colin knows it or not, he is, and always has been. I think it’s great that this could also have something to do with his love of football.”

Just behind them is the large grassy hill leading up to the landmark Campanile, dotted with white tents as far as the eye can see. Freshman Quin Wittenauer stands with a group of friends and shouts, “We’re a soccer school!”

Wait, Kansas a football school?

“It’s a dream come true,” he says. “I’ve been waiting for this since I was 5 years old. I’ve seen every KU game. It makes me cry. I am wearing a KU uniform in my baby pictures.”

His friends AJ McDonald, Drake Doser, Mason Johnston, Adrian Dimond and Cadynce Marlow all start screaming in unison, their voices indistinguishable as they try to outplay each other’s Kansas football predictions.

“We want Bama!” they scream.

“No, no, we want Georgia!”

“No, no, no… Alabama wants US!”

Doser points to the white tent behind them. His parents and their friends decided to buy a tailgating tent for this game around the time the season started since it was Parents’ Weekend.

“We should have 10 people in the tent,” says Shannon Doser. “I think we have 100.”

At the top of the hill, on a bench with an unobstructed view of the stadium, Scott Johnson enjoys the view. A graduate of the Kansas Class of 1970, he recalls going to games in the 1960s to see Gale Sayers, Curtis McClinton and John Hadl.

“You know, they’ve had great football teams here throughout history,” Johnson says. “But the last 10 years have been tough. Really hard.”

Johnson drove 585 miles from his home in Colorado to get to the game, believing he could just get a ticket on game day like he always does. But when he arrived in town on Thursday, he learned the game had sold out – the first sell-out since 2019.

“I’m kind of amazed,” he said.

So he decided to sit on the bench to witness it all – even with his view of the field blocked thanks to the scoreboard behind the end zone.

Had Johnson made it into the stadium, he would have been part of a loud, noisy crowd that was on their feet throughout the game. With Kansas leading late, security guards stood in front of the Kansas student section with a rope — a signal that they were not allowed onto the field.

After Kansas made a defensive stop to seal the 35-27 win and go 4-0 for the first time since 2009, the crowd was the loudest, waving white handkerchiefs to mark the moment. As the final seconds ticked by, a will-or-not-they dance ensued between security and the students.

After a few moments’ delay, a segment of rope was lowered and the students filed onto the field in quite an order, with no shoving, shoving, or stomping, but rather with sheer excitement and some disbelief, and streamed for the players, chanting, “4- 0! 4-0!”

“That was crazy,” said recipient Luke Grimm. “I said, ‘Oh my God, I think we’re going to do that. They’ve got the announcer in the back and they’re like, ‘We expect to win, don’t run onto the field,’ and the students are righteous like, ‘Anyway, we walk in the field.” So you’re with the family at this point because you’re just having fun and you just went through something together.”

About 10 minutes after the students entered the field, they were asked to leave the field. As they stumped towards the exits after filling their phone camera rolls with pictures, one student turned to her friend and yelled, “I can’t believe we friggin’ won!”

https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/34663917/kansas-catches-football-fever-stunning-september Kansas catches football fever after stunning September

Emma Bowman

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