The Kansas State Wildcats (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) capped their regular season with a 31-11 rivalry win over the Kansas Jayhawks (3-9, 1-8 Big 12). Their Sunflower Showdown victory marks the fifth consecutive Governor’s Cup win over the Jayhawks and 17 wins in their last 21 match-ups since head coach Bill Snyder returned in 2009.
As many predicted, the Wildcats came out with guns blazing early, scoring two touchdowns for a 14-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. A 35-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jake Waters to tight end Zach Trujillo and a successful point after attempt from kicker Ian Patterson got things moving in the right direction. John Hubert later rushed for a 21-yard touchdown, the beginning of a 220-yard game for the senior running back.
Kansas State continued to display its scoring versatility with a 29-yard Waters touchdown pass to freshman fullback, Glenn Gronkowski early in the second quarter, putting the Wildcats up with 21 unanswered points.
However, the Jayhawks finally started to climb out of the hole after a 11-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Jake Heaps to tight end Jimmay Mundine. A 31-yard field goal attempt from kicker Ron Doherty would pull the Jayhawks up to 21-10 at the end of the half and would be the last points scored by Kansas in the game.
If one thing was consistent, it was the Wildcats slowing in the third quarter just as they have in their last several games. Though they had no real progress offensively, the Wildcats defense still allowed very little action and no scores while the Jayhawks were in possession.
The Wildcats would seal the game with a 15-yard rushing touchdown from Waters in the third quarter and a 31-yard field goal from Patterson in the fourth.
It isn’t a stretch to suggest that the Jayhawks were their own worst enemy in the Showdown. Numerous turnovers and interceptions played a significant role in the Wildcats maintaining their lead during the entire game. Despite Hubert and Tyler Lockett tearing up the field and the atypical scoring from typically quiet players, it is safe to say that the Jayhawks may have had a chance for a comeback, had they played tighter and prevented unnecessary turnovers.
The Jayhawks had a six turnover season high, with Heaps contributing three thrown interceptions, a thrown pick from Montell Cozart and two Jayhawk fumbles in the game. Wildcat safety Dante Barnett played a key part, coming away with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Though the Wildcats ultimately came out with the win, everything was not coming up roses during gameplay. Penalties were a major factor, making the team unrecognizable with 80 yards lost to errors.
Reducing penalty yardage will be crucial for the Wildcats if they hope to succeed in their bowl game. It is expected that Kansas State will once again travel to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl, where they have competed three times in bowl history and been victorious.