Ugly history: The Sunflower Showdown promotes rivalry between Kansas teams

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The Wildcats line up against the Jayhawks in the 114th edition of the Sunflower Showdown in 2016. K-State defeated Kansas to extend their winning streak against the Jayhawks 34-19. (Archive Photo by Evert Nelson | Collegian Media Group)

The Sunflower Showdown — a rivalry game between two teams separated by just 85 miles of Interstate 70. First meeting in 1902 and continuously playing since 1911, the Kansas State versus Kansas game stretches across generations, and though every meeting wasn’t pretty, it’s hard to not love the good old fashioned tension that divides both teams.

While K-State football is on the cusp of what could be its twelfth straight victory over the Jayhawks — which would break the series record for the longest winning-streak for either team in the series — the Sunflower Showdown didn’t always favor the Wildcats.

In the series history, Kansas leads 64-48-5, but since the introduction of the Governor’s Cup in 1969, K-State leads the series 31-19-1.

The series began on Oct. 7, 1902, in Lawrence, when the Jayhawks defeated K-State 16-0 for the Governor’s Trophy, not to be confused with the Governor’s Cup. The trophy was only awarded in that first meeting. Between then and 1924, KU built up the lead they have in the series now, winning 17 of the first 21 meetings to put the overall series at 17-1-3. K-State’s first and only victory in that period came on Nov. 23, 1906, in the rivalry’s fifth meeting, when the Wildcats defeated KU in Manhattan 6-4.

The series between K-State and KU would be the longest continuous rivalry in the Football Bowl Subdivision if the meeting in 1910 wasn’t canceled — the two teams were unable to agree on eligibility rules after KU was found to be involved in a number of cheating scandals.

After years of KU dominating the rivalry, K-State made the series competitive, winning 12 of the next 17 meetings from 1924 to 1940. Since 1924, the series sits tied 47-47-2.

From 1940 until 1969, the winner of the series was awarded the “Peace Pact Trophy,” which came in the shape of two miniature bronze goalposts. This trophy was used to discourage the winning team’s students from tearing down the actual goalposts on the field after the game.

KU took the mini bronze goalposts 23 times in the next 29 meetings from 1941 to 1969 — this is where another large chunk of the Jayhawks’ wins came from. In those years, K-State defeated KU just four times, putting together a three-game winning-streak against KU from 1953 to 1955.

The tide in the series slowly shifted K-State’s way at the introduction of the Governor’s Cup in 1969. The Wildcats won the first meeting for that trophy 26-22 after a KU pass was interrupted in the end zone during the final play.

Almost every game was competitive in the series from 1969 onwards, and there was some controversy, with the 1980 meeting’s outcome still disputed. Kansas won that meeting 20-18, but after their running back Kerwin Bell was ruled ineligible at the conclusion of the season, KU had to forfeit three conference victories, including the win against K-State.

Perhaps the most infamous matchup between the two teams occurred seven years later in 1987, when KU entered the game 1-7 and K-State came in 0-8. Dubbed the Toilet Bowl, both teams were at the bottom of college football at the time. The game lived up to its name, ending in a 17-17 tie.

After Bill Snyder arrived in 1989 the series flipped on its head. From 1990 to 2003, K-State started a run that went matched until recently, going 12-2 against their in-state rival and winning 11-straight from 1993 to 2003. The Wildcats beat KU by an average of 33 points per game during the winning-streak.

During that time, K-State snapped an 11-game losing streak in Lawrence, in 1994, sending K-State fans in attendance into a frenzy. The victory prompted the fans to rush the field and tear down the Jayhawks goalposts on their home turf.

In 1995, both teams were ranked going into a matchup, as No. 14 K-State (5-1) dominated No. 6 KU (7-0) 41-7 in Manhattan.

Preventing the streak from worsening in 2004, the Jayhawks defeated K-State 31-28 in Lawrence, starting KU’s most successful trend against the Wildcats in the twenty-first century. They won four of the next five games against K-State.

K-State put a stop to that in 2009 with a 17-10 victory in Manhattan, thus starting a new streak against the Jayhawks that carries on to this day.

The Wildcats can make history on Saturday with a win, upping the winning-streak to 12, the longest in series history.

While it hasn’t always been known for being the most competitive rivalry, the Sunflower Showdown still is one of the most historic rivalries in all of college football.

The 118th edition of the rivalry takes place at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Manhattan and will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1.

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Hey! I’m Cameron Bradley and I am the sports editor for the Collegian! I am a junior from Wichita, Kansas, and I am majoring in journalism. When I’m not working for the Collegian, I’m creating content and putting on broadcasts with K-StateHD.TV. I am also currently a member of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity. I love sports, spending time with friends, family and doing everything that I do for the glory of God!