It's been awhile since the Sunflower Showdown has meant so much on the gridiron for both parties involved, but both Kansas University and Kansas State have plenty on the line this afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
The Jayhawks (5-5 overall, 2-4 Big 12) need to win one of their two final games to attain bowl eligibility for the third time in four years. Multiple bowl representatives are on hand to watch the game, as K-State, who is already bowl eligible at 7-4, is looking for the best postseason contest possible.
Obviously, the talk coming into the game mostly revolves around K-State's landmark 45-42 win last weekend at home over Texas. KU has had two weeks since its 45-10 win over Iowa State to prepare for its in-state rival, and is looking to avenge last year's 12-3 loss in Manhattan. In 2004, the Jayhawks knocked off K-State at home to set off a frenzy of an atmosphere in Lawrence. A win today would probably provide a similar setting.
Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m., with clear skies and a slight wind blowing to the open end of the stadium. KU is donning its blue uniform tops, while K-State is in white.
Kansas State 3, Kansas 0
Any emotional edge KU had to start the game looked like it would be erased fairly quickly. On the game's first snap, K-State quarterback Josh Freeman ran a play-action pass and found a wide open Jeron Mastrud down the seam of the field. After bobbling the ball, the lumbering tight end took it 66 yards to the KU 20-yard line. After an offsides call before the next snap, K-State earned a first down on a seven-yard pass from Freeman to James Johnson. But KU held K-State out of the endzone on three straight plays, stalling the drive at the four-yard line, leaving the Wildcats with a 21-yard Jeff Snodgrass field goal.
On KU's first offensive possession, KU didn't go for the big play right off the bat like its counterpart did, but still moved the ball well. Kerry Meier found Dexton Fields for a pair of first-down passes, including one right at the sticks on third-and-four, which was followed by a 12-yard Jon Cornish run to set KU up at the K-State 34.
Meier followed it with his third completion to Fields, who spun out of a defender's grip for an 11-yard gain and another fresh set of downs.
Kansas 3, Kansas State 3
Cornish had a pair of short carries sandwiched around a false start call, which set up a third-and-eight situation at the K-State 21-yard line. Meier floated a ball for Brian Murph down to the three-yard line, but the ball forced Murph to come back and fell incomplete. The drive ended just like K-State's, with a 38-yard Scott Webb field goal to even the count at 3-3.
Kansas 10, Kansas State 3
K-State overcame a 15-yard late hit penalty on its next drive to nearly pick up a first down on a long run by James Johnson. But KU's defense made its biggest play yet when Aqib Talib picked off Josh Freeman while rolling to his right on first down. The return set KU up at the K-State 23, and it took Jon Cornish just two carries to find the end zone, doing so on a 13-yard run with 3:31 to go in the first quarter.
Kansas State didn't go away from the pass upon taking the ball again. Freeman threw a pair of long passes to Jordy Nelson and Cedric Wilson.
But it didn't matter.
Freeman fumbled a first down snap near midfield, and KU's Russell Brorsen pounced on it quickly to give KU the ball again, this time at the K-State 36-yard line.
Kansas 13, Kansas State 3
On the first play, sprung by a vicious backside block from Cesar Rodriguez, Jonathan Lamb took a reverse nine yards down the sideline. A false start gave KU third-and-six from the 32, and Fields dropped a bal inside the five on a lobbed ball from Meier, setting KU up for a 49-yard field goal attempt. Webb nailed his career-long kick with with ease to put KU up 13-3.
After tiny Leon Patton squirted for a first down on the first play of the second quarter, Washington High product Darrell Stuckey nailed K-State's Rashaad Norwood - a high school rival who played at Schlagle - for a one-yard loss. K-State, though, managed a first down thanks in large part to a receiver screen to Jordy Nelson.
On second-and-11 again near midfield, Freeman showed some escapability, as Kansas continued to bring good pressure but fail to wrap him up off the edges. He ran for a first down, setting K-State up at the KU 44.
Kansas 13, Kansas State 10
After that, Patton provided the game's biggest highlight yet, as he moved to the left sideline, and after three tackles were missed while he teetered against the boundary. He then sprinted to the end zone in front of the K-State faithful seated in the open end. But when the replay was shown on the big screen, Mangino erupted down the sideline to get the play reviewed.
The play stood, and Snodgrass' extra point was true, again making it a three-point game.
KU's next drive appeared to go three-and-out, but K-State clobbered Kyle Tucker on the punt attempt, bailing the Jayhawks out of a not-so-hot kick. The penalty set KU's offense back up at its own 30-yard line.
KU was again aided by a K-State penalty on second-and-10, after a short route was thrown to Murph. He only gained three yard, but 15 more were tacked on thanks to a Justin McKinney late hit, putting KU at its own 48-yard line.
KU moved the chains without the aid of penalties after that, sparked by a 22-yard pass from Meier to Jonathan Lamb on third-and-13, to put KU at the K-State 33.
Meier then kept the ball on a pair of runs to put the Jayhawks two yards away from another first down. Cornish ripped off a five-yard to give KU its fourth first down of the drive.
Though it all went to waste when Meier looked for Derek Fine in the end zone and left a little too much air under the ball. K-State freshman Joshua Moore soared in for the pick, giving K-State back the ball.
K-State couldn't build momentum with the ball back in its hands, as they went three-and-out, capped with Talib breaking up a third-and-five pass.
On KU's first snap of the ensuing drive, Cornish took a handoff up the middle for 32 yards, and Meier followed it by finding Fields for the fourth time on the afternoon.
But another drive stalled with the arm of Meier, as he floated another pass into triple coverage looking for Lamb, and this time it was picked by Byron Garvin, giving K-State the ball back at its own eight-yard line with 1:47 left in the half.
Kansas 20, Kansas State 10
On the first play of K-State's next drive, Freeman was grabbed at the goal line by Joe Mortensen and James McClinton, and instead of a safety, the ball was jarred loose. Brorsen fell on it in the end zone, giving KU a 10-point lead once again.
KU secured its 10-point lead going into the half when Anthony Webb stymied another K-State drive, keeping KU up 20-10.
KU is up 10, but the passing game just hasn't been there. Meier is 6-of-14 for just 68 yards with two picks. Cornish has 11 carries for 85 yards and a score, while on the other side patton has 65 yards on seven carries with a touchdown. Freeman is 11-of-19 for 163 yards, but has also been intercepted twice.
KU opened the half with a three-and-out when Meier overthrew Fields on a third-and-four, but Kansas State saw the same fate with the ball, as James Johnson was smothered by Mike Rivera after catching a pass on third-and-short.
KU got the ball at its own 20, but on the first play, the ball was slapped from Cornish's left hand and recovered by K-State's Eric Childs at the KU 23-yard line.
Kansas 20, Kansas State 13
K-State continued to stumble offensively, capitalized with a nine-yard loss on third down when McClinton sacked Freeman, but K-State didn't go away empty-handed, with a 47-yard Snodgrass field goal capitalizing a four-play, -8-yard drive. It's a one-touchdown game at 20-13 with 9:56 to go in the third.
KU started its next drive by Meier completing his first pass of the second half on an 18-yard strike to Fields. The catch meant that Fields was on the receiving end of five of Meier's seven completions to date in the game.
KU was again aided by a K-State pass interference call, this time being blown against Byron Garvin when he cut a Brian Murph route short. Cornish followed it with a 15-yard run, putting him over the 100-yard mark for the game, and a Meier 18-yard run put KU at the KSU 12-yard line with another first down.
Though Meier turned the ball over for the third time in the game by fumbling it away at the KSU six-yard line.
The Jayhawk defense was again able to be stout, forcing another three-and-out, this time capitalized by an Anthony Webb pass breakup along the near sideline on a pass thrown to Jordy Nelson.
Meier completed two more passes on the next drive, but KU again failed to get a first down, and was forced to punt to Nelson again. The defense again was given plenty of room to work with with the ball at the KSU 20 yard line, and Freeman was again pressured into a pair of bad throws, giving the ball to the Jayhawks yet again.
KU finally found another groove, as Meier started it with an eight-yard strike to Fields, giving him seven catches for 72 yards on the day. He followed it with an option play to Cornish which moved teh ball inside the K-State 40-yard line.
After an incompletion, the game took a break while the medical staff attended to K-State's Joshua Moore, who was left motionless on the turf after a nasty collision with teammate Chris Carney while breaking up a pass.
After the break, KU went for it on a fourth-and-three, and Cornish took the ball up the left side for a six-yard game, giving him 125 yards on the night. One more snap - a one-yard gain by Brandon McAnderson - brought and end to the third quarter.
Kansas 23, Kansas State 13
The drive stalled out, leaving Webb with a 42-yard field goal attempt, which he drilled for his third trifecta of the day, and giving KU its first points of the second half with 14:14 to go int he game.
Kansas 30, Kansas State 13
On third-and-long, Freeman was picked off for the third time on the afternoon, this time while throwing a halfback screen to Patton. The ball was high and flipped off of Patton's fingers and was picked by Anthony Webb, who took the ball 42-yards uncontested to push KU's lead to three scores. Webb was flagged 15 yards for excessive celebration when he sprung into the end zone, but it could not quiet a raucous Memorial Stadium.
Kansas 30, Kansas State 20
The penalty wound up hurting KU more than it had thought, as James Johnson took the ensuing kickoff - booted from the 20 rather than the 35 - 85 yards for a score, outrunning Dominic Roux at the end of his jog.
Kansas 33, Kansas State 20
Cornish opened up the next drive in a hurry by picking up back-to-back first down runs, with the latter of the two being a 39-yarder which put him at 181 yards for the game.
The drive became the fourth on the day punctuated with a Scott Webb field goal. The 35-yarder gave him a career-best for field goals made in one game, and put KU's lead at 33-20.
Kansas 39, Kansas State 20
The odd bounces continued to go KU's way on KSU's next possession, which would prove fatal. After hitting Mastrud for a first down over the middle facing a third-and-seven, Freeman was pursued from the backside with the ball knocked loose before he threw. The ball popped into the hands of Wayne Wilder who rumbled to the K-State 12-yard line.
It took Jon Cornish one play to go 12 yards for his second touchdown of the game, and putting the game all but out of reach at 39-20 after the failed extra point with 4:08 to go.
KSU orchestrated a desperation drive, needing three scores, but the final outcome was all but sealed on Cornish's second touchdown run of the game, which also gave him 201 yards on 25 carries.
The game came down to turnovers, and while KU gave it away four times, there were six on the other side. No two were bigger than the last two, which led to 13 KU points.
Josh Freeman, who entered the game as one of the hottest QBs in the nation, went 23-of-43 for 244 yards, three picks and one fumble with no touchdown passes.