Chants of “Bi-ill-Sny-der” emanated from the northeast corner of Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Fireworks filled the air above it to the south, and the jumbotrons played a montage of highlights from various wins along the way to victory number 200 for Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder.
Victory number 200 came Saturday night, as the K-State Wildcats overcame a lack of passing offense to beat the Kansas Jayhawks 34-19 in the 114th edition of the Sunflower Showdown.
It took 25 years of persistence, a hallmark of the values Snyder has made his career teaching the players who came through his program.When it finally came, Gatorade-bath and all, it was special.
“I got my pants wet,” Snyder said. “I’m cold.”
Win number 200, Snyder said, was about the people along the journey, not personal success.
“(The win) stands for a lot of wonderful young people that have come through this program,” Snyder said. “Every single one of them has contributed that particular number.”
The game took place on Senior Day, and seniors impacted the game from the first drive.
Senior linebacker Charmeachealle Moore made the first tackle of the game on a four-yard pass from Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley to wide receiver Shakiem Barbel. That tackle, however, was negated due to a chop-block penalty against Kansas.
Instead, senior defensive end Jordan Willis was credited with the game’s first tackle when he made a tackle on a rush by the Kansas running back Ke’aun Kinner.
“It was pretty exciting because we really wanted to win this game,” Willis said. “Then there was some excitement created by like guys playing their last game in this stadium. So it was exciting for me, not so much because it was senior day but because there was so much other stuff going on.”
The early contributions by the Wildcat seniors didn’t end on defense, however.
Senior running back Charles Jones was the featured back on the first offensive series, rushing twice for 13 total yards before sophomore fullback Winston Dimel scored on a one-yard touchdown run.
Snyder said that was by design.
“As far as Charles (Jones) was concerned, yes, it was just starting the ballgame as a senior,” Snyder said. “We’d like to have done it for all of them.”
Snyder said he regretted not being able to get the seniors even more involved.
“That’s probably the saddest thing, and one of the reasons I’m somewhat disappointed is not having the opportunity to get all of our seniors on the field for any substantial amount of play at all,” Snyder said. “That pains me a great deal.”
After Dimel’s touchdown, the Wildcats and Jayhawks exchanged drives which ended in punts until the Wildcats scored two offensive drives later on a 31-yard rushing touchdown by sophomore running back Alex Barnes, which gave the Wildcats a 13-3 lead.
Just two plays later, senior defensive back Donnie Starks became the first senior to score a touchdown in the game.
Starks picked off a pass by Carter and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown, putting the Wildcats up 20-3.
Seniors weren’t the only Wildcats who to thrive Saturday, just as Jones wasn’t the team’s leading rusher.
Dimel rushed for two touchdowns on six attempts and Barnes rushed for 103 yards and one touchdown.
Wildcat sophomore quarterback Jesse Ertz used his legs to cut apart the Jayhawk defense, rushing for a game-high 110 yards despite just 59 yards on 4-6 passing.
Junior linebacker Elijah Lee continued his strong season, earning his second interception of the season and the fifth of his career. The interception was one of many ways Lee contributed on defense. Lee made eight tackles, seven of them solo, second in the game only to Kansas safety Fish Smithson who had 11.
Kansas made a push in the second half, recovering a muffed return by K-State on an onside kick in the fourth quarter after scoring a touchdown to make the score 34-16. The defense held, however, forcing an incomplete pass on fourth down.
Though the Wildcats were held without a first down on their next drive, an excellent punt with strong special teams coverage pinned the Jayhawks at their four-yard line to start their next drive.
The Wildcat defense, which started the game strong, allowed the Jayhawks to drive all the way to the Wildcat 22-yard-line before holding them to a 44-yard field goal to move the score to 34-19 in favor of K-State.
From there, the Wildcats were able to burn away the clock
K-State hits the road next week to finish off the season versus TCU. Kick-off is set for 11 a.m.