Kansas football coach Lance Leipold has started a season with five straight wins eight times in his 16 years as a head coach.
The six times it happened during his wildly successful stint at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, Leipold’s teams ended up playing in the national title game that season and went on to win five of them.
The two seasons in which it happened during his time at Buffalo ended up in bowl games.
It’s clear that fast starts and early wins is nothing new to Leipold and the many members of his coaching staff who have been on this ride with him. But the second-year KU coach admitted after last Saturday’s home win over Iowa State that there was something new about racing out to a 5-0 start at Kansas.
“It feels different because of what this group’s been through,” Leipold said. “But, you know, we’ve only been here 16 months or whatever it is and we’re focusing on where we’re at and what we have to improve on for next week.”
That approach is Leipold to the core. It’s how he made a name for himself as a player and then as a coach and how he earned promotions and big raises after showing success at each of his first two coaching stops.
So, yeah; you’re more than a little crazy if you think this particular 5-0 start — however improbable it may be — is going to knock Leipold off the proven path that has led to where he and the Jayhawks are today.
Hard work, humility and daily improvement, no matter how small, will continue to be the rallying cry for the 19th-ranked Jayhawks. And that will be the case regardless of how many pregame television shows or big-name accolades get thrown their way.
That’s not to say that Leipold and the players on this team aren’t enjoying the extra attention. It’s clear that they are. But the focus inside KU’s football facility is about continuing to do the things that brought the attention on, not choosing to let up because it arrived.
The fact that so many in and around Lawrence, from all kinds of different walks of life, have been energized by their success only adds motivation and joy.
“Again, I’m so happy for them,” Leipold said of his players. “And we see what (success) can do. We see what it does for this community, we can see what it does in the stands, we can see what it does for our pride, self-esteem, togetherness. We can go through a lot of things and these are all great things to build upon.”
With seven games remaining and KU sitting just one win shy of becoming bowl eligible, the chance to build and turn this season into one for the ages rather than a nice little run to start the season, is in front of them.
So you’ll have to excuse Leipold if he’s enjoying this one just a little bit more than those 5-0 starts that he, his past players and countless other people came to expect.
This one’s different. And it doesn’t sound like Leipold or the Jayhawks believe they’re anywhere close to being done.
“Based on what everyone thinks where this program was going to be this year, yeah (this 5-0 start feels different),” Leipold said Saturday. “But you’ve got to finish the story, right? And we have seven more games to go.”
The first of those kicks off at 11 a.m. Saturday on FS1, as an encore performance to ESPN’s College Gameday being on KU’s campus for a football game for the first time ever.