After three straight losses, including two games where Kansas blew leads and collapsed in the fourth quarter, the Jayhawks are eager for a victory. Now, with its Sunflower Showdown rival Kansas State as KU’s next foe on Saturday in Manhattan, the Jayhawks are even extra hungry to snap the losing streak.
Kickoff is 11 a.m. at Bill Snyder Family Stadium with the game
televised on FX.
Both teams have had a bye week to prepare for this game. KU (1-3) is
coming off a demoralizing 30-23 loss to Northern Illinois two weeks
ago, while the No. 7 Wildcats (4-0) are looking to build off their
24-19 upset win at then-No. 6 Oklahoma on Sept. 22.
KU will be facing a potent offensive and defensive team. The Wildcats
rank 19th nationally in scoring offense (40.50 points per game) and
22nd in scoring defense, allowing just 15.50 points per contest. KSU is
also 14th in rushing offense (243.25 yards per game), while ranking
14th in rushing defense, limiting foes to only 93 yards per contest.
KSU, meanwhile, boasts a high-powered special teams, ranking first in
the country in punt returns and sixth in kickoff returns.
KSU is led offensively by dual-threat quarterback Collin Klein, a
Heisman Trophy and All-American candidate. Klein is a powerful runner
who can also throw the ball. As far as rushing touchdowns, he ranks
second among active quarterbacks in career multiple touchdown games
with 10, while ranking tops among quarterbacks and second among all
players nationally in total rushing touchdowns since last season (31).
Klein (6-5, 226) has completed 56 of 80 passes this season for five
touchdowns, while rushing 63 times for 289 yards and five TDs.
“If you don’t stop him, you really don’t have much of a chance,” said
KU coach Charlie Weis, who’s compared Klein’s power running style to
the New York Jets’ Tim Tebow and San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick.
KSU’s rushing attack is further bolstered by John Hubert, who rushed
for 130 yards and a touchdown against OU, the first K-State
running back to tally a 100-yard rushing game versus the Sooners since
Darren Sproles in 2003. Hubert ranks second in the Big 12 and 16th
nationally with 107.75 yards per game.
Defensively, senior linebacker and preseason All-American Arthur Brown
leads the way. Brown ranks third in the Big 12 with 36 tackles (20
solo), including a team-high eight at Oklahoma.
“He’s a dynamic player, he’s all over the field,” Weis said.
Then there’s defensive back and All-American candidate Nigel Malone,
while Weis calls junior safety Ty Zimmerman the “heart and soul of the
Weis has great respect for KSU coach Bill Snyder and the Wildcat team.
“This is a team that really plays sound fundamentally on both sides of
the ball and lives off of your mistakes,” Weis said. “You make mistakes
and they pounce on you. They don’t turn the ball over, they don’t
commit penalties (K-State is the nation’s least penalized unit at 16.5
yards per game).”
It’s a daunting challenge for a Kansas team which is practicing full
contact (red shirts have been taken off the quarterbacks as well) to
prepare for the Wildcats, who have become KU’s biggest rival now that
Missouri bolted to the SEC. Weis spoke at length to his players about
the history and importance of the rivalry, which dates back to 1902.
KSU has won the last three meetings with KU’s last victory in Manhattan
coming in 2007. Bragging rights will be on the line this Saturday as KU
looks to end K-State’s winning streak.
“I think that anytime you have an in-state rival there is always going
to be something you’re playing for,” Weis said. “I think it’s important
that your players understand what you’re playing for. What they really
want is they want the governor to come into your locker room (after the
game) because it means they won and they want him to hand that
Governor’s Cup to them.”
Of course, it won’t be easy for KU to earn the Governor’s Cup in the
110th all-time Sunflower Showdown. But Weis and the players believe
they can win despite being outmanned at almost every position and
serving as a huge underdog to the powerful Wildcats.
“Absolutely,” Weis said about whether KU could pull off a victory.
“You still play the game. ... You can’t go into a game saying, ‘We’re
1-3, they’re 4-0, let’s go in there and try to keep it close. The fan
base will be happy.’ I’d rather lose by 100 trying to win.”
The Jayhawk fan base would be thrilled if KU shocked the Wildcats. And
that’s what Kansas is prepared to do. The ‘Hawks are indeed extra hyped
about this Sunflower Showdown.
“We want this game real bad,” junior running back James Sims said.
“It’s a big (game),” senior quarterback Dayne Crist added. “You could
feel it last week even in the bye week. Guys understand that, and I
think guys are ready to elevate their play.”
Beating K-State would indeed be something special for senior safety
Bradley McDougald, who’s seen the Jayhawks fall to the Wildcats the
last three years.
“That would be a lot of weight removed, just to beat one of my rivals,”
he said. “I didn’t get a chance to beat Missouri. To get a last shot at
a rival opponent, it’s all or nothing right now.”