Sunflower Showdown brings bowl eligibility one step closer

Senior defensive back Morgan Burns plows into KU punter Matthew Wyman as Wyman tries to punt the ball after fumbling the long snap, allowing K-State to fall on the fumble and score on the next offensive play, on the Jayhawks' first drive of the game in the first quarter of the Wildcats' 45-14 beatdown of rival Kansas Jayhawks in the 113th annual Sunflower Showdown Saturday evening in Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas. Burns played a big role in KU's mishaps, forcing this fumble, forcing a second fumbled punt on KU's next drive and then falling on the ball in the endzone for a touchdown, and nabbing an interception a few seconds later. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

For the seventh time in a row and the 20th time since 1989, a K-State team led by Bill Snyder has beaten Kansas in the annual Sunflower Showdown.

Even after 20 wins, Snyder said the Wildcats’ 45-14 victory on Saturday still resonates with him as if it were his first.

“They mean an awful lot,” Snyder said. “I’ve been on the other end of it. So, you don’t like that. I appreciate all people in the state of Kansas. Everybody has a side. It means a lot to KU people just as it means an awful lot to K-State people. Therefore, it makes it meaningful to me.”

Special teams helped K-State get a foothold early, as two consecutive punts were blocked by the Wildcats. Both were recovered by senior cornerback Morgan Burns.

“I think that really sparked the whole team and sparked both sides of the ball offensively and defensively,” Burns said. “I’m glad coach (Bill) Snyder and coach Sean Snyder do a really good job emphasizing special teams because they can really change the course of the game, and I think it set the tempo for the rest of the game.”

Burns had a big day, grabbing his first interception of the season and the first interception for the Wildcat secondary of the season, in addition to his two recoveries and the touchdown.

“Being good on special teams is important to us,” Snyder said. “For (Burns) to do that and turn around and get a pass interception 10-15 seconds later was pretty dynamic I think. I was pleased and proud.”

The first one was promptly ran in on the next play by freshman fullback Winston Dimel. The other was dived on immediately after the block in the end zone by Burns for a touchdown.

“He’s a very fine player,” Snyder said of Dimel. “He understands things well. He plays smart for us. He can get himself in position to make plays and he certainly did that today.”

Dimel had one of his biggest games of the season, scoring two touchdowns on the ground to go along with a huge 44-yard pass that would set up his second touchdown.

Kansas found their only offensive success of the game between the two blocks, as freshman Jayhawk quarterback Ryan Willis orchestrated a drive that set up a 27-yard touchdown pass to Tre’ Parmalee.

Willis went 19-35 for 215 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

From then on, it was all K-State. The Wildcats tacked on three more touchdowns in the first half, including an eight-yard run by junior fullback Glenn Gronkowski and a two-yard run from junior quarterback Joe Hubener.

The Wildcats’ 28-point halftime lead was their largest of the season.

The second half would be very the much the same for the Jayhawks, but offensively, the Wildcats would struggle.

They didn’t find the end zone once through the third quarter, but they put up some points on a 33-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Matt McCrane.

The field goal marked the first for McCrane since the first game of the season versus South Dakota, as he was injured early in the UTSA game on an extra point.

The Wildcat offense would strike one final time in the fourth quarter when Hubener broke through and scored on a 22-yard run, giving the Wildcats a 45-7 lead.

Hubener quietly led the Wildcats in rushing. He put up 88 yards and two touchdowns while going 10-17 through the air for 133 yards.

The Wildcats kept it very workmanlike, pushing the ball on the ground and keeping the run game as a focus.

“That’s about what it was,” Hubener said. “We didn’t try and do too much. For the most part, we tried to just take what they were giving us, and people executed well. Our offensive line did a great job blocking up front, creating some good holes to run through.”

The Jayhawks had one final gasp, as Willis led his team down the field on a touchdown drive lasting just under six-and-a-half minutes and resulting in a 26-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Bobby Hartzog.

The Jayhawk touchdown would be the final score of the night, giving the Wildcats a 45-14 victory.

With the win, K-State is one win away from officially qualifying for bowl eligibility for the sixth straight season. The Wildcats have one game left against West Virginia.

“That’s about all we talked about,” Snyder said of his postgame message to his team. “Other than the (Governor’s Cup), it was all about preparation for next week … that’s all it boils down to.”

Tim Everson was born in Wichita, KS in 1994. Before fifth grade he moved up to Manhattan for one year before settling in Riley, KS where he graduated from Riley County High School in 2012. Tim has worked for the Collegian since spring of 2014 and took over as Sports Editor during the summer of 2015. Tim loves sports, music, movies and good food when he can get it.