Wildcats upend Jayhawks to win 11th straight Sunflower Showdown

The Kansas State Wildcats rode a punishing running game to their 11th win in a row in the Sunflower Showdown, upending the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence 38-10.

Most significantly for the Wildcats, this win moves their record to 6-2, clinching bowl eligibility in their first year under coach Chris Klieman.

Given the recent success for both programs, this was expected to be a close contest. Kansas State knocked off a top-five team last week, while Kansas had racked up the third most total yards in the country over its last two games. The last point spread set for the game was less than a touchdown, with K-State favored by 6.5 points.

In the end, though, the Wildcats picked up the win without much resistance.

“They just came in here and beat our ass, to be honest with you,” Kansas junior wide receiver Andrew Parchment said. “There ain’t nothing else to say.”

Junior quarterback Skylar Thompson, one week after winning Maxwell Award player of the week honors, was the star once again for K-State in the program’s third straight win. After racking up four scores in a win over Oklahoma, he reached paydirt three times on the ground against Kansas, including a short one to open the scoring midway through the first quarter.

While the Thompson’s running ability confused and frustrated that Jayhawks throughout the game, the overall ground attack constantly overwhelmed Kansas.

K-State ran for 342 yards on 60 carries on Saturday, good for 5.7 yards per rush. Kansas, by comparison, had just 241 yards total, with over a quarter of those coming on a garbage-time touchdown drive at the end of the game.

That touchdown drive came without Kansas senior quarterback Carter Stanley on the field, who suffered a knee injury late in the fourth quarter and was replaced by senior Manny Miles. The backup quarterback scored KU’s only touchdown. After the game, Stanley and KU coach Les Miles said that Stanley should be fine going forward.

“I’m all good,” Stanley said. “I got some x-rays and I feel good about it.”

What wasn’t good was the stat line for Stanley, who threw a pair of interceptions and didn’t throw a touchdown pass for the first time since a Week 2 loss to Coastal Carolina. He struggled throughout the day, but wasn’t the only one who had a tough go against the K-State defense.

“Carter’s interception was one that was just a poor throw,” Miles said. “When you don’t start fast, you make some bad decisions.”

That slow start was a theme for Miles when he spoke after the game, and it was echoed by the team. In the first half the Jayhawks had just three points and 74 total yards from scrimmage, averaging 3.2 yards per play. For comparison, the Wildcats went into halftime with a 17-3 lead and were averaging 6.1 yards per play.

“We have not started fast in the last several games, and it’s what we’ve got to work to accomplish,” Miles said. “We’re going to take this week, the open week, and pursue improvement, and starting fast has got to be the key.”

What the Jayhawks couldn’t accomplish was something the Wildcats thrived with. K-State was dominant in the opening half, more so than even showed on the scoreboard. It held the ball for over 21 of the opening 30 minutes.

“I thought we needed to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, that was the challenge to the guys on Monday,” K-State coach Chris Klieman said.

Miles wasn’t as blunt as Parchment, but offered praise and credit to K-State for executing its game plan and taking it to Kansas.

“I thought they ran the football extremely well,” Miles said. “They did a nice job, they came in and played extremely hard. Give them a lot of credit.”

Thompson finished the game with 129 passing yards and 127 rushing yards to go along with his three touchdowns, but spread the adulation around to his whole team after the victory.

“I think we are a discipline, hard-nosed, well-coached football team,” Thompson said. “My eyes have been opened today to the type of football program we have here at K-State.”

Over the past several weeks Thompson has been playing as well as any quarterback in the Big 12. In the last three games, all of which have been conference wins, he has eight rushing touchdowns and is averaging 249.3 total yards of offense without committing a turnover.

His strong performance was noted by Miles after the game.

“His first step is vertical and he’s a force, he’s a key piece,” Miles said. “He did a nice job, certainly, showed some real skills.”

This year’s edition of the Sunflower Showdown was, in a literal sense, much different visually than recent matchups in Lawrence. Saturday’s game was the first sellout for the Jayhawks at home since 2009, something that stood out to both teams.

“I saw every seat packed, I was like, ‘Whoa,'” Kansas junior linebacker Kyron Johnson said. “I’ve never seen something like it before. It was just an amazing feeling.”

Without knowing an exact percentage breakdown, it was clear that a large portion of the crowd was wearing purple and supporting K-State. Miles said he felt it was a strong Kansas crowd, however, calling it “Jayhawk loud.”

“Our guys truly appreciate those people who were in the stands and rooting for the Jayhawks,” Miles said.

K-State will head south to Austin, Texas next weekend for a meeting with the Texas Longhorns, who were off this week. Kansas has the next week off before a road game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, who beat TCU on Saturday, on Nov. 16.

Click below to hear what Chris Klieman, Les Miles and their teams had to say after the Kansas State Wildcats beat the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday:

Chris Klieman Les Miles
Skylar Thompson Carter Stanley
Trey Dishon Andrew Parchment
Wyatt Hubert Daylon Charlot
Scott Frantz Bryce Tornedon
Elijah Sullivan Kyron Johnson