Burns leads charge as Wildcats look to reach bowl

Senior defensive back Morgan Burns leads the Wildcats in high-fiving the hands of K-State fans who braved the freezing rain as they walk around the bottom of Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas, following their 45-14 defeat of KU in the 113th annual Sunflower Showdown on Nov. 28, 2015. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

In a season where K-State has struggled to find an identity and a leader, a player has emerged just in the nick of time as the Wildcats’ bowl hopes are hanging by a thread.

The man who has become the power source for the this team is senior cornerback Morgan Burns.

For the third straight week, Burns was named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week. For Burns, the 2015 season has seen its ups and plenty of downs, but with the season winding down, it is now starting to trend upward once again.

“I think for a lot of guys, including Morgan, we know that we’re getting to the end of the season,” Jordan Willis, junior defensive end, said. “We know we have to win a bowl game and it’s your senior year, so you want to go out with a bang. I think there’s a lot of guys clicking and playing well. We just have to keep the momentum going for next week.”

When Burns returned the season opening kickoff against South Dakota, it seemed like it would kickstart a senior campaign to remember, but it did not.

After experiencing struggles during the Wildcats’ brutal midseason stretch where they lost six games in a row, there were few highlights for the defense, which struggled to keep up with the high-powered offenses of the Big 12.

After the Texas Tech game three weeks ago, however, Burns was back to making his mark on the field. He returned a 93-yard kickoff return to tie the game early on. Even after suffering their sixth straight defeat, it was good enough to give Burns his first of three Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week award.

The next week, Burns was at it again. With K-State struggling against Iowa State, Burns put together a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that brought his team back into the game. With that play alone, the second player of the week honor went Burns’ way.

In his third straight game making an impact on special teams, Burns didn’t wait for the Wildcats to be down.

Burns was not done, not even close.

On the next punt attempt for Kansas, Burns actually got his hands on the football after Sizelove blocked a punt, which then landed in the end zone. Burns landed on it for his third touchdown in three straight games.

“I think that really sparked the whole team and sparked both sides of the ball offensively and defensively,” Burns said after the game. “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.”

If Burns striking twice against the Jayhawks wasn’t bad enough, he decided to make their day even worse with an interception as the Jayhawks were traveling deep into K-State territory.

The 45-14 win against Kansas was the seventh straight Governor’s Cup for the Wildcats. Burns, being an in-state product, said he takes pride in the yearly showdown and stressed the importance of the game to the rest of the team.

“I was a little emotional before the game,” Burns said. “Addressing the secondary, I didn’t know what to say. I was just emotional. My last couple of games (are) here, so I just wanted to help the guys win the game and be successful.”