For the first time in 13 years, the Sunflower Showdown matters to more than one team. Kansas and No. 12 Kansas have not faced both teams since 2009.
Both teams achieved eligibility for the cup draw, and K-State was able to secure a bid for the Big 12 Championship game on December 3rd with a win. Kansas wanted nothing more than to head to Manhattan, Kansas and shatter their opponent’s conference title hopes and take home the Governor’s Cup.
Kansas leads the overall series 66-48-5, but Kansas State has won the last 13 games. The Jayhawks last defeated the Wildcats on November 1, 2008.
K-State (8-3, 6-2 Big 12) will also earn a spot in the championship game against TCU if Texas loses to Baylor on Friday. But if the Longhorns take care of things at home against Baylor, K-State will need to beat the Jayhawks on Saturday to secure a spot in the title game.
Kansas State was expected to be good, but how they got to this point was unexpected. Starting quarterback Adrian Martinez, who switched from Nebraska, was to lead the charge. But injuries took him out early in two games and kept him out of the game in two more.
Substitute Will Howard was consistent, if not spectacular in his place. And the running back Deuce Vaughn was also effective, giving K-State the kind of offensive balance that every coach dreams of.
When the Jayhawks’ archrival came to town for Senior Night, head coach Chris Kliman was careful not to make the game more important than necessary.
“I’m always careful that it’s more important than last week, or next week, or the previous two weeks,” he said on Tuesday. “I’ve never been a big believer in ‘put all your eggs in this basket’ because if you don’t succeed, what will happen?
“We talk a lot about pressure and stress. Pressure is what you prepare for and train for. block out some of the outside noise.”
Kliman said he sees one big difference in Kansas this season that hasn’t been seen in the past.
“I think the most important thing is to believe,” he said. “I don’t know their line-up, but they play hard and believe. They do have talented players, no doubt, but they play with passion. icing on the cake for them.”
Kansas (6-5, 3-5 Big 12) has already done more than anyone outside of their program thought possible. This season, the number of wins in KU was less than three, so achieving cup eligibility was more than a dream.
Head coach Lance Leipold says K-State is what his program wants.
“It was not a real rivalry,” he said. “We didn’t make this game competitive last year (35-10 KSU). This will be the first and foremost thing I will focus on. Everything after that is what it is.”
–Field level media