This game was personal for Scott Frantz.
Same for Denzel Goolsby, Dalton Schoen, Trey Dishon, Wyatt Hubert and every other in-state player on the Kansas State football roster. The Sunflower Showdown is always important to the Wildcats, but it took on extra meaning leading up K-State’s 38-10 victory over Kansas on Saturday at Booth Memorial Stadium.
“They gave us a lot of bulletin-board material,” said Frantz, a senior left tackle for the Wildcats who grew up in Lawrence. “KU, they were talking a lot of stuff this week and that motivated us. It really did. And we came out here and executed.”
One quote stood out.
In this week’s “Miles to Go” episode on ESPN+, KU football coach Les Miles fired up his players in the locker room after last week’s win over Texas Tech by repeating three words: “Who is K-State?”
The Wildcats saw the clip when it went viral on social media and then responded by playing what coach Chris Klieman described as the team’s “best game of the year.”
The 22nd-ranked Wildcats played angry, like a team with something to prove. They felt like the underdog, even in a rivalry they dominate.
That showed most on offense when they rushed for 342 yards without starting running back James Gilbert, who dressed but didn’t play, or Jordon Brown, who left the game after a few plays. The offensive line blew KU off the ball and created huge running lanes for Harry Trotter (92 yards and a touchdown) and quarterback Skylar Thompson (127 yards and three scores).
That showed on defense when the Wildcats held the Jayhawks to 241 total yards and forced Carter Stanley to throw a pair of interceptions. Brent Dearmon’s offense, which looked brilliant in recent games against Texas and Texas Tech, was stymied by K-State defensive linemen like Dishon and Hubert.
K-State was uncharacteristically penalized 11 times for 113 yards, including a handful of flags for unsportsmanlike conduct. Klieman wasn’t happy about that and said players need to remain more disciplined in the future, but the Wildcats obviously wanted to celebrate this win.
It was personal for them.
“I feel like a lot of teams in the Big 12 have respect for each other,” Frantz said. “This week, that was not the case.”
Goolsby, a senior defensive back for the Wildcats, got extra revenge after the game when he immediately found his phone in the locker room and posted the following words on his Twitter account: “I wonder if KU knows who K-State is now.”
Miles heard about it, too.
As he walked off the field following the home loss, he got heckled by one of the many purple-clad fans still in attendance. A few feet away, in the front row, the K-State fan with a white pullover jacket cupped his hands together and let him have it.
“Who is K-State, Les?” the man screamed in full throat.
One possible answer: The team that has now won 11 straight against the Jayhawks.
Much was made about KU potentially closing the gap on K-State now that Bill Snyder is no longer around to emphasize the rivalry and Miles has added energy to the KU program. But Klieman appeared to make the gap between the two rivals grow during another blowout victory on Saturday.
A week of build up and hype for this game created a fun atmosphere that featured the first sellout crowd in Lawrence since 2009. But it backfired on the Jayhawks when the game began.
The Wildcats raced to a 17-3 halftime lead and never looked back. They dominated in all phases and played the game on their terms. Red and blue made up the majority of the crowd at kickoff, but only purple remained as the sun went down.
That made the win all that more satisfying for K-State players, who are now bowl eligible after the Wildcats improved to 6-2 and 3-2 in the Big 12.
“There was just so much talk leading up to the rivalry,” Dishon said. “It was huge. One thing I told the team before we took the field today was, ‘Remember it’s gameday. We are the ones in control. Everyone can say what they want, but we players are the ones who are going to get it done.’ And we did.”