The recent dominance by K-State over its in-state rivals hit a new historical marker this week, with the Wildcats earning their 13th consecutive win in the Sunflower Showdown, retaining the Governor’s Cup with a 35-10 win over the Kansas Jayhawks.
And, for the 11th time in the winning streak, Kansas State won by double digits. Additionally, Kansas State is now bowl eligible with six wins on the season.
In terms of both statistics and the eye test, Saturday’s game was utterly dominated by the Wildcats. K-State gained 499 yards from scrimmage compared to just 274 for KU, while the Wildcats also converted two-thirds of their third-down attempts, averaged nearly nine yards per play and led the time of possession battle.
Sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn led K-State’s offensive outburst with one of the best games of his career, He racked up three touchdowns on the ground along with 162 yards rushing on just 11 carries, plus 60 more yards through the air on five receptions.
He got the scoring started in the first quarter, punching it in from a yard away just over halfway through the opening period. KU answered with a 41-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Jacob Borcila, but a four-point deficit was as close as the Jayhawks would get the rest of the afternoon.
K-State tacked on a pair of touchdowns before halftime, entering the break up 21-3, with KU’s only scoring chance in the mix ending on a missed 39-yard field goal attempt.
It was more of the same to start the second half, with the Wildcats scoring on the opening play of the third quarter, this time on an 80-yard run by Vaughn, who would wrap up K-State’s scoring with one more one-yard score in the fourth quarter.
Vaughn said it was crucial for the Wildcats to be able to move the ball through the air and on the ground.
“It’s big time just because of the way that we talked throughout the week about having balance, passing it to the point where we can use all of our playmakers on the field,” Vaughn said. “Saying, we can run it to this guy, we can throw it to this guy and he’s gonna go make a play.”
For the first time this year, K-State went over 200 yards passing and rushing.
KU’s offense was able to muster more momentum in the second half behind third-string quarterback Jalon Daniels, who had to enter due to injuries to both junior Jason Bean and senior Miles Kendrick. Daniels connected with senior receiver Kwamie Lassiter II for the only Jayhawks touchdown of the day, and Kansas ended the contest with two turnovers on downs either inside or near the red zone.
Kansas coach Lance Leipold defined their offensive performance as “subpar,” also mentioning that some early momentum for the Jayhawks was deflated by Kendrick and sophomore running back Torry Locklin getting carted off the field with injuries.
Daniels played the entire second half for KU, and has now played in three games this season. Earlier this year, Leipold said the program is planning to use a redshirt for Daniels, but added after Saturday’s game that it’s too soon to tell if that will remain the plan and that it will depend on Bean’s health.
Senior quarterback Skylar Thompson had an efficient day passing for the Wildcats, going 19-of-24 through the air for 244 yards with a touchdown. Sophomore backup quarterback Will Howard also saw limited action for Kansas State in the fourth quarter. The two K-State passers completed passes to 12 different receivers in the game.
“They have some explosive players,” Leipold said. “It’s not a matter of willing or wanting, it’s a matter of confidence to go make it happen,” later adding that KU’s defense is also not getting to the quarterback enough.
K-State coach Chris Klieman was excited about the Wildcats’ performance after the game, both offensively and defensively, but was also lukewarm on the strides K-State made this week.
“I think our guys know that when we play well and with confidence, we can play with anybody and if we don’t, you know, if we don’t play with really good confidence, we make critical errors, we can get beat by anybody,” Klieman said.
It wasn’t an especially chippy version of the Sunflower Showdown until early in the fourth quarter, when Kansas junior linebacker Gavin Potter was flagged for hitting Thompson late out of bounds, followed by another dead ball personal foul against KU sophomore safety Kenny Logan. K-State ended that drive with a touchdown.
“”Obviously, it’s not something I’m pleased with,” Leipold said regarding the personal fouls. “It’s not acceptable that we want in our program, or the one that followed after.”
It was an emotional game regardless, and Klieman said the meaning behind this game for players from Kansas was the biggest part of the win in his mind.
“That these Kansas kids were able to get another win over Kansas, you know, to be a K-Stater, this game means everything,” Klieman said. “For those kids in that locker room, so many of them took the chance to come to K-State, bought into some of our beliefs as coaches because there’s a lot of upperclassmen there. I love it.”
After losing eight straight Big 12 games dating back to last season, K-State has now rattled off three conference wins in a row. The Wildcats will return home to Manhattan next weekend to host West Virginia. KU, meanwhile, remains winless in Big 12 play at 0-6 this season and will visit Texas next Saturday.
Click below to hear from Chris Klieman and Lance Leipold after K-State defeated KU 35-10: