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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kansas State trounces KU in Sunflower Showdown

BY KELLIS ROBINETT
The Wichita Eagle

LAWRENCE — The Sunflower Showdown became so lopsided Saturday at Memorial Stadium that Kansas State fans outnumbered their Kansas counterparts by the start of the fourth quarter.

Dressed in purple, they moved to prime seats near the field and positioned themselves for a celebration as the Wildcats put the finishing touches on a 59-21 victory that was nearly as dominant as the year before.

When it came time for K-State to head to the locker room, players noticed. They ran up and down the track surrounding the field, shaking hands with supporters who made the trip.

Though it was perhaps K-State's least meaningful victory since Big 12 play began, it was the perfect scene for a team that has had to sweat out five close victories and must now prepare for a hyped showdown against third-ranked Oklahoma.

"Anytime you can do a victory lap after the game, I don't care who you're playing, I think that just feels great," linebacker Tre Walker said. "Especially when all your fans come down to support you."

K-State fans came in large numbers. Of the 47,157 in attendance, many were cheering for the visiting team. Following a similar 59-7 victory here last season, most were expecting the No. 12 Wildcats to add to the Jayhawks' recent struggles.

K-State was favored for the first time in a month, and played up to expectations by turning a showdown into a blowout.

The many highlights included a five-touchdown day from junior quarterback Collin Klein, two jaw-dropping scores from freshman Tyler Lockett, a dominant showing on defense and yet another impressive coaching effort from Bill Snyder. He has won 15 of the last 16 against Kansas.

K-State held a 21-0 advantage midway through the second quarter and hit the Jayhawks with 31 straight points after KU made its only push before halftime.

"We were not without our faults, but I thought our youngsters played well and particularly played well when they had to," Snyder said. "We got off to a good start and then stalled a little bit, but they came back and really opened it up in the third quarter. Our defense played so well."

Cornerback David Garrett led the way with 11 tackles, Arthur Brown added eight and Meshak Williams and Emmanuel Lamur had tackles for loss in the first half.

K-State outgained KU 466 yards to 286, and it took Kansas nearly 25 minutes to score. By then the Wildcats possessed a three touchdown lead. The way Snyder coaches, that was more than enough.

"People stepped up and made plays," Klein said. "I was able to deliver and guys across the board were able to focus and make things happen."

The Jayhawks did make things interesting for a few moments before halftime. Jordan Webb hit D.J. Beshears for a 20-yard touchdown that made the score 28-14 with 14 seconds remaining in the half. It looked like they were headed to the locker room with momentum.

K-State quickly took it away. Klein, who threw for a career-high 195 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 92 yards and four touchdowns, found Lockett for a 48-yard gain across the middle on the next play from scrimmage.

One second remained in the half. K-State called timeout, and Anthony Cantele made a 26-yard field goal to make it 31-14. Then, on the first play of the second half, Lockett returned a kick 97 yards for a touchdown. Less than 30 seconds off the scoreboard and the game was forever changed.

"I just thought about what I could do to help the team this game," said Lockett, who became the first player in K-State history to return a kickoff for a touchdown in back-to-back games, and caught five passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. "Luckily it was that."

All week, people wondered if the Wildcats (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) could focus on Kansas (2-5, 0-4) instead of looking ahead to what will be one of their biggest games in recent history next week against Oklahoma. Turned out it wasn't much of a concern.

As players boarded the bus home, they said they were thinking about the Sooners for the first time.

"It's going to be a huge game," Walker said. "I want to beat them so bad. I'm not going to say anything bad about Oklahoma. They're a good team and all that stuff, but I want this win a lot. I want it bad for my family, who are Oklahoma fans, for my friends who are Oklahoma fans and for the people who think we can't do it.

"We've got to bring it together like never before. But we'll be ready."

Check Kellis Robinett's K-State blog at blogs.kansas.com/kstated. Reach him at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com.

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