The Sunflower Showdown looks a little different in the stands, but the passion remains the same. Kansas has not defeated Kansas State since 2008.
However, K-State isn’t letting that affect the preparation headed into rivalry week.
“It’s a big rivalry, obviously I’ve only been here for one year, but for the state of Kansas, it’s a big deal. For those kids from Missouri, it’s a big deal,” head coach Chris Klieman said. “Any time that you have teams from the same state going against each other at any level and then you throw in the Big 12 and Power Five, I think it is. I know it is.”
The Kansas natives on the Wildcat roster use the lack of recruiting attention from KU as fuel for the matchup.
“Every time that I get a chance to play them, I just want to show them what they missed out on, and I’m sure that all the Kansas kids want to do that,” said senior running back Harry Trotter.
Last season against KU, Trotter ran for 92 yards and a touchdown.
“I lived 15 minutes away from Lawrence, and they didn’t even give me a look, so it kind of hits home a little bit,” senior defensive back Jahron McPherson said. The Basehor native had an interception against the Jayhawks in Lawrence last year.
The loss of junior running back Pooka Williams Jr., who opted out of the season, is a huge loss for the Jayhawks, but the mentality of the Wildcats is aimed at the offense as a whole.
“So many people put so much emphasis on what one player can do for a football team, holy cow,” Klieman said. “You better have all 11 executing at a high level to be successful on offense and defense.”
Sophomore running back Velton Gardner filled in for Williams nicely this season and leads Kansas in rushing with 225 yards and two touchdowns.
Freshman quarterback Will Howard will start for the Wildcats, but senior quarterback Skylar Thompson returned to the team this week to provide support for the young quarterback and will be a huge help in a new role.
“He sees the field really well, he sees the game, and it’s slowed down for him as he’s played,” Klieman said of Thompson. “He’ll be a great help to those guys throughout the week and on game day.”
Howard, who will make his second start at K-State, controls the offense, which has impressed several of his upperclassman teammates.
“His control of the offense has improved a lot. Will just coming in was already a confident kid,” Harry Trotter said. “Me being a senior, the things that I’ve tried to do is help him with the little things just timing, snap and presnap stuff.”
The Atchison native has been finding opportunities to help the young quarterback.
The K-State defense has limited teams to 26 points per game despite having limited numbers in the secondary this season.
Defensive coordinator Joe Klanderman took over the defense this season and has the team playing at a high level. The secondary has collected several individual defensive awards this season, including a pair of national nods.
“I think Coach Klanderman should get the most praise,” McPherson said. “He puts people in a position to succeed.”
Kickoff from Bill Snyder Family Stadium is slated for 11 a.m. Saturday on Fox Sports One.