Upset victories last week give a refreshing twist to the Kansas-Kansas State game this week, as a pair of first-year coaches with programs making promising strides against will face off in Lawrence, Kan., on Saturday.
“K-State upset Oklahoma, as well as us beating Texas Tech,” Kansas sophomore safety Davon Ferguson told reporters of the reason for the added juice to this year’s rivalry game. “The state of Kansas is just in disarray. We have to see who really is the king of Kansas.”
Coach Chris Klieman directs a Kansas State team that jumped into the rankings at No. 22 after storming to a 25-point lead and ultimately holding off then-No. 5 Oklahoma 48-41 last weekend.
Les Miles answers with a Kansas squad that forced back-to-back three-and-outs from Texas Tech in the fourth quarter and got two cracks at a game-winning field goal that stunned the Red Raiders 37-34.
The storybook endings thrust even more attention on both programs as the calendar turns to November.
Kansas State (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) gained a replay reversal that wiped out an Oklahoma recovery of an onside kick, allowing the Wildcats to run out the clock.
Kansas (3-5, 1-4) recovered an errant lateral after Texas Tech blocked a field goal, enabling the Jayhawks to get a second kick — which Liam Jones hit from 32 yards out to win as time ran out.
Since he came out of retirement to take on the formidable task that is the Kansas job, Miles, who guided LSU to the 2007 FBS crown, insisted the Jayhawks would play meaningful games in November.
Now, their first bowl bid since 2008 remains a possibility behind an offense that generated 500-plus yards in each of the last two games.
Senior quarterback Carter Stanley and sophomore running back Pooka Williams balance the attack and are capable of generating yards in chunks. Williams averages 100.6 yards rushing, with a 5.2 average per carry. Stanley averages 237.5 yards passing with 19 touchdowns and had three connections of 50-plus yards against Texas Tech.
“I’m blessed to have this group around me, players and coaches,” Stanley said. “I’m going to bust my butt these last four, five weeks including the bye (Nov. 9), and give it everything I’ve got and just make the most of it.”
A fourth victory would represent more wins than Kansas recorded in any of the last nine seasons under four different coaches. The Jayhawks have lost 10 straight to Kansas State.
Klieman accepted the task of following legendary Wildcats coach Bill Snyder after guiding North Dakota State to four national championships. Although his hiring stirred some backlash because Klieman came from the FCS level, the Oklahoma upset quieted any detractors and leaves the Wildcats needing one win for bowl eligibility.
“A lot of people were watching the game, and it was an opportunity to prove ourselves and show the whole world that we belong,” said the Wildcats’ leading rusher, James Gilbert, a Ball State transfer.
Gilbert joins quarterback Skylar Thompson in an efficient attack that already has generated as many rushing touchdowns (20) as Kansas State produced during a 5-7 finish last year.
On defense, the Wildcats have allowed just four passing touchdowns and rank in the top 10 nationally in third-down defense (.253) and first downs allowed (16.6 per game).
–Field Level Media