The K-State football team takes on the Kansas Jayhawks in the 107th Sunflower Showdown at Snyder Family Stadium, Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
For the Big 12 North-leading Wildcats (5-4, 3-2 Big 12 Conference), this game is pivotal in winning the division and reaching the postseason. For the Jayhawks (5-3, 1-3 Big 12), this game is key in salvaging a poor conference season that has seen three straight losses after an opening win against Iowa State. Head coach Bill Snyder, who typically stresses each game is as important as the next, said in his weekly press conference this game is a big one for the Wildcats.
“Well, I’m quite certain that the vast majority of our players would like to bring the Governor’s Cup back to Manhattan,” Snyder said. “This game is very important to all of our team, especially our players from Kansas. I think that this is a very significant game for every one involved on both sides.”
Kansas head coach Mark Mangino said this week he is less concerned with standings than he is about improving his football team.
“I do not think you can look at the North standings,” Mangino said. “I think you have to look at yourself and how we are going to get better. We can’t sit around and talk about winning the North. We have to talk about winning a game.”
Mangino added that this game is important to most all sports fans in Kansas, and that this year’s Wildcat team is far different from previous ones under former head coach Ron Prince.
“They are back to playing basic, principle football,” Mangino said. “They are not real flashy. They do not take a lot of chances.”
While the Wildcats have made many changes since the departure of Prince, Snyder’s biggest goal for the season is to see his team improve each week, something they haven’t always been able to do. Despite losing a tough game against Oklahoma last week, Snyder is keeping his team focused down the home stretch in what could be a special year for the Wildcats.
“We just keep telling them that we, maybe more than anyone else in the conference, control our own destiny,” Snyder said. “But that’s really the only dialogue that we have had with them in terms of the success that the near future could possibly hold. We put a great deal of emphasis on taking things one day at a time.”
This game puts a special emphasis on the state rivalry, with players getting especially excited to take the field.
“Everybody talks about it at the beginning of the season,” said senior running back Keithen Valentine. “It is here now, and everybody was looking forward to it on the schedule, and everyone is getting pumped up for it.”
While all of the players involved know the meaning behind it, some have not always seen it as a heated rivalry.
“I did not watch it real closely,” said sophomore safety Tysyn Hartman, a Wichita native. “Growing up, K-State was known for football, and KU was known for basketball, but recently they have had a good run, and we are looking to end that.”
Kansas wide receiver Kerry Meier knows the Sunflower Showdown rivalry more than most; his two older brothers, Shad and Dylan, both played at K-State. However, they did not push their younger brother too hard to choose K-State.
“They knew that it was my decision and that I’m my own man and whatever decision I made they were going to be 100 percent behind me,” Meier said. “I’m glad about the decision I made, coming to KU. I have been happy about it.”
After this week’s game against Kansas, the Wildcats host the Missouri Tigers at Snyder Family Stadium next Saturday. Kickoff for the final home game of the season is set for 11:30 a.m.