Kansas State punter Ryan Doerr has walked past the Governor’s Cup daily for three years.
Displayed in a massive trophy case near the front doors of the Vanier Football Complex, it’s the first thing he sees before practice and the last thing afterward.
He feels an attachment to the trophy, which goes to the winner of the Kansas-Kansas State game. So much so, he refuses to take its presence for granted.
“I used to walk by that trophy case when I was a freshman and wonder what is supposed to be in there,” Doerr said. “Why do we always have this huge case with nothing in it? I was just a kid from Texas, didn’t know what it was. My teammates told me it was for the cup between us and KU. When they beat us, they’ve got it and we keep the case empty. That just doesn’t look right.”
K-State coach Bill Snyder could easily fill the trophy case with something else, but that isn’t his style. Winning that trophy long ago became a tremendous point of pride for him and everyone associated with the No. 7 Wildcats. So they give it top billing when they have it, and use its absence as year-long motivation when they don’t.
The strategy works, and K-State has the results to prove it.
Kansas leads the series 65-39-5, but K-State holds a 16-4 advantage under Snyder. Other than a three-year losing streak under Ron Prince, the Governor’s Cup has resided in Lawrence once since 1993. Many K-State victories were by wide margins — 59-21 last season and 59-7 before that.
They were statement games that helped K-State separate itself, again, from its in-state rival in the eyes of recruits and fans.
“I wouldn’t downplay the fact that we have fared well against them,” Snyder said, “because all those games were important and significant.”
K-State quarterback Collin Klein was playing receiver when the Wildcats ended a three-game losing streak to the Jayhawks in Snyder’s first year back. He could tell right away that Snyder put special emphasis on the Sunflower Showdown.
That’s still obvious today, with Kansas struggling and K-State a 24-point favorite.
“It’s an important game,” Klein said. “You live with it for a full year. You either have the Governor’s Cup in your trophy case for a year or you don’t. It’s good to have it.”
Over the years, that mindset has trickled down to every K-State player. Those born in Kansas grew up watching the rivalry and want to win for bragging rights. Out-of-state players see how important the game is around campus and catch on quickly.
So motivation against an opponent that hasn’t put up a fight the last two years isn’t tough.
“I’ve seen the days when KU beat us and the reaction around town,” Doerr said. “It always feels good to beat them handily. That’s how we’ve done it the last couple years. We are not real big fans of KU around here. Anytime you can just destroy them – I don’t know how else to say it – it just feels good.”
No one has enjoyed the victories more than Snyder over the years, but he is quick to say what happened in the past has nothing to do with Saturday.
He encourages his players to prepare for Kansas the same way they did for Oklahoma two weeks ago. If they don’t, they can end up with an empty trophy case.
“We need it,” Doerr said. “It finishes the complex off.”
“The bye week went reasonably well for the most part,” Snyder said. “They have practiced with a fair degree of intensity.”
“He’s awfully good,” Snyder said. “It’s hard to prepare your defense against him. A lot of people can’t change up schematically a great deal and be able to execute effectively. That’s something they do that I admire. They are able to go to a variety of different offensive schemes.”
“I always thought it meant a great deal to them,” he said.