The key: After Kansas opened with a promising drive that ended with a 34-yard field goal, Kansas State wasted no time answering with a six-play, 70-yard touchdown march, capped by Winston Dimel’s one-yard dive into the end zone.
The key: KU quarterback Carter Stanley made his team’s costliest mistake, hitting Kansas State’s Donnie Starks for an interception that was returned 39 yards for a touchdown. The point-after gave the Wildcats a 20-3 advantage.
The key: Backed up at its own end, KU had its best offensive play of the day, as Stanley delivered an accurate deep ball to receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez for a 95-yard score.
The key: KU’s last offensive drive of the season — fittingly — ended with a turnover. Stanley fumbled on a rush attempt, with K-State’s Cre Moore recovering it.
When it mattered most in the first half, KU’s offense was an overall negative, responsible for a field goal but also a backbreaking pick-six in eight possessions. The Jayhawks responded with an effective second half, though, which included three 70-plus-yard drives.
In a low-possession game, KU’s defense allowed touchdowns on four of 13 drives. The Jayhawks’ linebackers struggled against the run game in particular, as Keith Loneker and Courtney Arnick were too often taken out of their gaps by K-State misdirection.
KU did more than break even against K-State’s impressive special teams, outperforming the Wildcats in nearly every facet. That included a successful onside kick attempt and 34- and 44-yard field goals from Matthew Wyman.
KU coach David Beaty made some good decisions while playing to win, going for a two-point conversion when down 18 and also attempting an onside kick to give his team energy late. KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen never completely figured out how to stop K-State’s run game, though, and Beaty was too slow to have Stanley test K-State’s cornerbacks with deep throws.
Player of the game: Safety Fish Smithson ended a productive KU career with 11 solo tackles and a pass breakup.
Reason to hope: KU has legitimate playmakers returning next season in sophomore receiver Steven Sims, sophomore defensive linemen Dorance Armstrong and Daniel Wise, and freshman safety Mike Lee.
Reason to mope: KU’s offense still lags well behind nearly every other Big 12 school. One has to wonder if Beaty will turn play-calling duties over to a new coordinator next season.
Looking ahead: The Jayhawks, who finished with a 2-10 record, will open next season with a home game against Southeast Missouri State on Sept. 2.