Cats get last laugh in Sun­flower Show­down

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JESSE NEWELL AND KELLIS ROBINETT

Kansas State’s win­ning streak over Kansas con­tin­ued, but its re­cent dom­i­nance in the Sun­flower Show­down was put to the test on Satur­day at Snyder Fam­ily Sta­dium.

The Wild­cats trailed much of the way and needed a fourthquar­ter come­back to de­feat the Jay­hawks 21-17 on a chilly af­ter­noon in front of 50,062 fans.

It be­gan in the fi­nal min­utes when K-State took over at mid­field with 5:02 re­main­ing fol­low­ing a KU punt. Run­ning back Alex Barnes con­verted a fourth­down run, Dal­ton Schoen made a huge catch for 28 yards up the left side and then quar­ter­back Alex Del­ton broke free for a touch­down run of 21 yards.

Just like that, K-State was sud­denly in con­trol of a game that pre­vi­ously seemed to be tee­ter­ing to­ward KU.

The Jay­hawks still had an op­por­tu­nity to win on their fi­nal drive and moved across mid­field, but KU quar­ter­back Pey­ton Ben­der lost con­trol of his fi­nal pass at­tempt and fum­bled the ball. K-State de­fen­sive end Bron­son Massie re­cov­ered the fum­ble and the Wild­cats held on for vic­tory.

It was a much-needed win for K-State (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) and a heart-wrench­ing loss for KU (3-7, 1-6).

“It’s huge given where we’re at in the sea­son right now,” Schoen said. “It’s also huge be­cause it’s KU, and I think that just means so much more to all of the guys on this team, all the guys from the state of Kansas, and all th­ese fans. It was big for that.”

K-State has now won 10 straight in this ri­valry. KU coach David Beaty, who will not be re­tained next sea­son, will exit the Sun­flower Show­down with an 0-4 mark against the Wild­cats.

“Ob­vi­ously, it was mean­ing­ful in a variety of dif­fer­ent ways,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said,

“in par­tic­u­lar be­cause of young play­ers that we have in our pro­gram, Kansas young­sters for in­stance, se­niors that have never lost this par­tic­u­lar ball game and wouldn’t want to be the first to do it. It has a variety of dif­fer­ent pos­i­tive mean­ings.”

Still, this was an ugly game. Snyder said the Wild­cats were for­tu­nate to es­cape with vic­tory, but cer­tainly de­served to win.

De­spite what the box score says, in re­al­ity, there weren’t many win­ners among those who at­tended the an­nual ri­valry.

Th­ese two pro­grams com­bined to hit a new low with their per­for­mance. It went from a first half of em­bar­rass­ing of­fenses to a sec­ond-half of cover-your-eyes blun­ders, mak­ing it must-see only in the as­pect that one couldn’t pre­dict the sort of ab­sur­dity that was com­ing next.

K-State, known his­tor­i­cally for its spe­cial teams, failed to re­cover

the sec­ond-half kick­off, ran into KU’s kick­ers twice, muffed a punt with a rookie re­turn man and and dropped a hold on a field-goal at­tempt.

“We’ve got to do a bet­ter job of un­der­stand­ing where to be, and that’s coach­ing,” Snyder said. “That’s not the play­ers, that’s me be­ing able to get guys in the right po­si­tion to be able to catch those.”

The Wild­cats, build­ing a pro­gram on power foot­ball, couldn’t muster a few inches on a fourth-and-short quar­ter­back sneak in the fourth quar­ter. That seemed like it would be sig­nif­i­cant as well.

But KU some­how made even more mis­takes.

Pooka Wil­liams fum­bled a kick­off re­turn. Two huge KU fourth-quar­ter runs were wiped away by hold­ing penal­ties. And on the sec­ond one, tight end Mavin Saun­ders tem­po­rar­ily lost his mind, pick­ing up an official’s flag and toss­ing it, stepping on it to pre­tend hide it, then kick­ing it af­ter his call to draw an­other penalty: un­sports­man­like con­duct.

“It was a back-and-forth game there in the sec­ond half and they did what ex­actly they needed to do to make enough plays to win it and we were not able to do that,” Beaty said. “That’s un­for­tu­nate, be­cause I felt like we had a pretty good show­ing for most of the day ...”

KU led 3-0 at half­time, but K-State scored the game’s first touch­down early in the third quar­ter.

The Wild­cats marched 64 plays on five plays and went ahead 7-3 on a 24yard run from Alex

Barnes.

At the time, it felt like that might be all the points K-State would need to win a low-scor­ing Sun­flower Show­down. But the game changed rad­i­cally from there. Both teams shifted into over­drive and ex­changed touch­downs the rest of the way.

Kansas scored its first touch­down on the en­su­ing drive when Pey­ton Ben­der led the Jay­hawks into the red zone and then found Jeremiah Booker for nine yards. Just like that, it led 10-7.

But K-State an­swered right back with a touch­down drive of its own that was capped by Barnes’ sec­ond scor­ing run of the day. The Wild­cats led 1410 with 2:57 re­main­ing in the third quar­ter.

Once again, the Wild­cats ap­peared in con­trol. And, once again, that feel­ing was short-lived. The Jay­hawks jumped back ahead on the open­ing play of the fourth quar­ter when Ben­der found Steven Sims open across the mid­dle for 65 yards and a touch­down.

“We felt like they could not stop us all game,”

Sims said. “It was just us han­dling our jobs and ex­e­cut­ing our of­fense.”

The Jay­hawks nearly pulled off one of their first road con­fer­ence vic­tory since 2008, but the Wild­cats stayed poised at home and won with their fourthquar­ter hero­ics.

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