Sunflower Showdown victory leads to bowl game eligibility

Daniel Green, junior in sociology, leaps over the competition in the Sunflower Showdown on Nov. 6, 2021. K-State beat Kansas 35-10. (Kendall Spencer | Collegian Media Group)

For the 13th consecutive year, Kansas State (6-6, 3-3 Big 12) won the Sunflower Showdown. K-State dominated KU (1-8, 0-6 Big 12) in a 35-10 win at Memorial Stadium.

The Wildcats started the game strong, leading KU 7-0 with 5:36 left in the first quarter. Deuce Vaughn ran the ball in for a one-yard touchdown. Kansas then tried to tie the game but was stopped short of a touchdown, only scoring a field goal with 2:49 left in the first quarter.

“This is big-time,” Vaughn said. “We control our own destiny. We have three games left before we get into that bowl game, but to be able to clinch, that is big-time for our program.”

With 1:57 left in the first, K-State dominated again, making it 14-3 after Skylar Thompson threw a 68-yard pass to Malik Knowles for a 70-yard touchdown play.

“We started off fast,” Knowles said. “In a few games, we started off slow. We came out firing on all cylinders.”

To finish the half, the Wildcats score with 2:48 left — Ben Sinnott runs the ball one yard to make the score 21-3 going into halftime.

Vaughn had an 80-yard run to start the third quarter, scoring with 14:45 left in the quarter. Kansas scored its only touchdown of the game with 3:02 left in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Thompson was hit out of bounds, taking several minutes before getting up. The final score came after Vaughn ran the ball on the goal line for a 35-10 score with 10:44 left in the game.

The Wildcats finished the game with 242 rushing yards and 257 passing yards. Vaughn finished the game with a career-high of 162 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Thompson threw for 244 yards during the game, completing 19 of 24 passes and one passing touchdown.

“My clock is ticking,” Thompson said. “Every game is an opportunity to play and have fun. Having that mindset has allowed me to play free. I’ve been playing really good football. There’s still plays that I missed that frustrate me. My expectation is to be perfect.”

Thompson, coming back for one final season with the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA, has been making the most of his final season. He now sits with 6,579 passing yards in his K-State career, placing him second all-time in the category. He also moved into third place in career-passing touchdowns at K-State with 38.

“It’s easy to do when you have Skylar Thompson — one of the best quarterbacks in the country — our running back stable and all of the weapons we have on the outside,” center Noah Johnson said. “We were balanced.”

Throughout the Sunflower Showdown, K-State is 25-4 in the series since 1993 and 12-3 at Memorial Stadium. The Wildcats have also outscored KU in points during that time, 1,095 to 433.

With this win over KU, the Wildcats are now eligible for a bowl game for the third straight season under head coach Chris Klieman. K-State has won three games in a row going into next week’s game against West Virginia.

“We’re 6-3, we’re bowl eligible, we’ve won three games in a row,” Klieman said. “It tells you an awful lot about the character and resolve of our guys when we started off the way we started off in conference. There was always a continued belief in that locker room.”

The Wildcats return to Bill Snyder Family Stadium next week for another 11 a.m. kickoff against the West Virginia Mountaineers. The game will be broadcast on FS1, the K-State Sports Network and radio broadcast by Wildcat 91.9.