Fortuna Files: Lance Leipold on yet another breakthrough moment for Kansas football
Plus, some insight into Army's AAC move, along with scheduling, search and investigation intel around the country.
Lance Leipold had a full house Saturday night. Fresh off his Kansas team’s first win over Oklahoma in 26 years, the Jayhawks coach had family and friends over to eat pizza and watch the night slate of games, an “uneventful but rewarding” evening that spoke to the 59-year-old Leipold’s vast body of work across 17 years as a college head coach.
Former Buffalo players — Taylor Riggins, Evan Finegan, Eric Black, Kyle Vantrease and Evan Gantley among them — were part of the crew, a group that helped the Bulls post four straight .500 or better seasons under Leipold, a feat that that program hadn’t accomplished since 1962-69.
That was at a MAC school, after Leipold had won six Division III national titles at Wisconsin-Whitewater. So beating a top-10 team at home for the first time since 1984? Don’t get it twisted, it’s big, even at a school that resides in the Big 12. But it’s also something that this Jayhawks program has been building toward under Leipold, whose team nearly knocked off the Sooners at home in 2021 and who now carries a 14-19 Kansas record into Saturday’s game at Iowa State.
The Jayhawks had 15 wins, total, across their previous eight years before Leipold’s arrival.
“It’s really kind of how we approached the game in a lot of ways was, keep playing fast,” Leipold told The Inside Zone. “Keep getting lined up, keep doing it. Because sometimes when you're not confident and things are happening fast, you're kind of just getting to the spot before the ball is snapped. You’re kind of looking around, there's uncertainty. I thought defensively we did a really good job. I thought we strained and did things, but I thought our communication for the most part of the day was excellent. Got some things to clean up, of course, but all those things that I think our guys were confident in the situation of what they needed to do.”
Leipold doesn’t like making comparisons to previous teams, but it had to be asked:
You have seen huge turnarounds before. Does this team have all the characteristics of those Buffalo and UW-W teams?
“I know what you're saying,” Leipold said. “What I do know is the majority of these guys from the ’21 season that are still here, you go back to that year: We’re the youngest Power 5 football team in the country. All four secondary guys were playing. Rich Miller was at linebacker. Jereme Robinson is one of the few that's rotating up front. Three starters on the offensive line. The tight ends. Of course, Jason (Bean) was playing quarterback. The receivers who are starting were playing.
“So now we've grown through experience through the ups and downs, through the trials and tribulations of things. But now that they've seen it and have experienced success and understanding that there are the swings of momentum in a game, we don't get that, ‘Oh no, here we go again,’ type that we used to see here. And that's what's really neat, when you see a veteran group have trust, have trust in each other, have trust in what the plan is, an approach to the game plan. And that's what I guess I could say. You see that changing in this program that maybe our experienced teams at the last two places have when you get to those places.”