News and notes while thinking "The Sunflower Showdown" sounds like something you'd watch on HGTV. It…
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 whole defense."
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."
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