Wildcats annihilate Jayhawks, win 12th straight Sunflower Showdown

The Kansas State Wildcats have bigger goals this year than just beating the Kansas Jayhawks, but a blowout victory over their in-state rivals doesn’t hurt.

The Wildcats have now won 12 straight Sunflower Showdowns, running the Jayhawks out of Manhattan with a 55-7 victory on Saturday.

“Proud of the guys, what great effort today, great effort throughout the entire week,” K-State coach Chris Klieman said. “This is a big game for us, big game for our kids from Kansas and Missouri, and to be able to dominate the football game like we did, [I’m] really pleased.

The domination by K-State can be summed up, at least one way, by its performance on special teams. If the Wildcats hadn’t run a single offensive play in the game they still would have won, thanks to a career performance by sophomore wide receiver Phillip Brooks. He returned two punts for touchdowns in the win and racked up 189 yards on punt returns.

Senior kicker Blake Lynch helped the scoring tally, too, making a pair of field goals.

Klieman said he was surprised Brooks kept getting opportunities to return punts.

“I don’t know if that’s what they were trying to do,” Klieman said.

He also addressed his overall philosophy for special teams and why K-State has excelled in that area this year.

“When we were at North Dakota State, we were better than everybody offensively and defensively, so why would we waste a chance of roughing a kid? Where here, it’s more much competitive offensively and defensively, and you may not have an advantage on those things, so you better find a way to have an advantage on a week-in, week-out basis.”

Conversely, the Kansas special teams played a brutally poor game overall. Starting the game with their backup punter, the Jayhawks allowed the two return touchdowns and averaged just 35.3 yards per punt as a team between three different punters (including freshman quarterback Jalon Daniels). Senior receiver Kwamie Lassiter muffed a punt, and freshman kicker Jacob Borcila also missed his lone field goal attempt.

“We did not expect some of the long runs that happened on special teams,” Kansas coach Les Miles said. “I think our guys, we lost a number of guys on special teams during the week, so we put extra time in it and really worked on it, and we thought we were in good shape. Obviously not.”

The K-State offense did play well overall, led by another huge game from freshman running back Deuce Vaughn. He gained 152 yards from scrimmage, with 81 on the ground and 71 through the air, plus a receiving touchdown. Vaughn now has 669 total yards this season.

Freshman quarterback Will Howard also put together an efficient game, going 17-of-24 passing for 243 yards and a pair of touchdowns before being subbed out in the fourth quarter. That makes him 2-0 as a starter since taking over for injured senior Skylar Thompson.

Klieman said that after a slow offensive start, he liked what he saw from the Wildcats on that side of the ball after halftime.

“We challenged them, I don’t think we played very well in the first half offensively,” Klieman said. “Couldn’t get into a rhythm, a lot of things were not going our way and we could have had a number of more touchdowns and for whatever reason we didn’t … We just needed to settle down and play the game, and I was really pleased with the way the offense responded in the third quarter.”

It wasn’t necessarily a poor game by the Jayhawks defense, at least not early. But, like in several games so far this year, the offense’s inability to move the ball damaged what positive momentum the defense had been able to create.

Daniels accounted for all of the KU scoring in the loss, rushing for a pair of touchdowns and gaining 27 yards on the ground. Making the third start of his career, he completed 22-of-39 passes for 207 yards with an interception. Lassiter was his top receiver, catching seven passes for 58 yards.

Miles said Daniels got the start over KU’s other options at quarterback because of how well he practiced this week.

“His practice week was what won the spot,” Miles said. “What he did was he showed his abilities to hit balls that were tight throws and he, in my opinion, had a really good week, and competed extremely well and we anticipate his accuracy will pick up.”

Discounting sacks, the Jayhawks ran for 137 yards on 35 carries, good for 3.9 yards per attempt in their first game without running back Pooka Williams. Miles said Williams is currently planning to rejoin the team in January.

Now 4-0 in Big 12 play and 4-1 overall for the season, next up for the Wildcats is a meeting with the West Virginia Mountaineers in Morgantown next Saturday. The Jayhawks, still looking for their first win of the year, will return to Lawrence next weekend to face Iowa State.

Click below to hear from both head coaches following the Kansas State victory over Kansas.

Kansas State – Chris Klieman

Kansas – Les Miles