Cats Travel to Lawrence for 119th Sunflower Showdown – Kansas State University Athletics – K-StateSports.com

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Coming off a convincing 31-12 win over TCU, Kansas State heads back on the road as it travels to Lawrence for the 119th edition of the Dillons Sunflower Showdown. The game against the Jayhawks, which kicks at 11 a.m., will be televised by FS1 with Adam Alexander (play-by-play) and Devin Gardner (analyst) on the call. The game can be heard across the 39-station K-State Sports Network with Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play), former K-State quarterback Stan Weber (analyst) and Matt Walters (sidelines) calling the action. Fans can also catch the game on SiriusXM (XM: 381; App: 951) in addition to The Varsity Network app.

A LOOK AT K-STATE

• K-State put together one of its best performances of the season in a 31-12 win over TCU last week.

Deuce Vaughn totaled 158 yards from scrimmage (109 rush/49 receive), and Felix Anudike-Uzomah collected a school-record tying 4.0 sacks in a dominating defensive effort against the Horned Frogs.

• Quarterback Skylar Thompson has put together one of the best four-game passing stretches of his career against Oklahoma, Iowa State, Texas Tech and TCU. During that time, Thompson has thrown for 1,074 yards and seven touchdowns with just two interceptions on 81-of-115 (70.4%) aim.

• At Texas Tech, Thompson threw for 306 yards – the third 300-yard game of his career – and a touchdown on 24-of-30 aim to set a new career best in completion percentage (80.0%).

• During the second half, Thompson connected on 14-of-15 passes, the best percentage in a half by a K-State quarterback since 2006.

• Thompson’s favorite receiver this year has been Vaughn, who leads the team with 32 receptions for 351 yards and three scores.

• This year, Vaughn has totaled 1,055 scrimmage yards (704 rush/351 receive) and 12 total touchdowns. In his 18 career games, Vaughn has at least 100 scrimmage yards 13 times – including each of the last 10 games dating back to last year – and he ranks third nationally among active players in career all-purpose yards per game (126.44).

• Receivers Phillip Brooks, Malik Knowles and Landry Weber have combined for 61 receptions for 783 yards and four scores.

• The Wildcats, deploying a new 3-3-5 look and regularly rotating in over 25 players on defense, rank 26th in the nation and fourth in the Big 12 against the run (121.0 yds/gm).

• Linebackers Daniel Green (49) and Cody Fletcher (44) lead the team in tackles, and each have at least four stops behind the line.

• Anudike-Uzomah ranks second in the nation in both sacks and forced fumbles, leading the Big 12 in both categories.

• He was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week following his effort against TCU.

• Punter Ty Zentner ranks third in the Big 12 with a 46.9-yard average, while his 50.4-yard average in conference play is second in the league.

Malik Knowles has returned two kickoffs for a touchdown, and he ranks third in the nation with a 31.2-yard average.

A LOOK AT KANSAS

• Kansas comes into the Sunflower Showdown with a 1-7 overall record and a 0-5 mark in Big 12 play.

• Two weeks ago, the Jayhawks nearly upset No. 3 Oklahoma, but the Sooners escaped with a 35-23 win.

• Jason Bean is the Jayhawks’ new quarterback, and he has thrown for 1,188 yards and six touchdowns on 97-of-173 aim with six interceptions.

• Bean has also rushed for 386 yards and two touchdowns on 88 carries.

• Freshman Devin Neal leads KU with 443 yards on 101 carries with four touchdowns.

• Kenny Logan leads the Jayhawks with 66 tackles, while he also has an interception.

A LOOK AT THE SERIES

• Kansas leads the all-time series, 64-49-5, but Kansas State has won each of the last 12 meetings and 25 of the last 30 dating back to 1991.

• This is the 111th-consecutive year of the Sunflower Showdown, which will be tied for the second-longest uninterrupted series in FBS history until later this season.

• It will be the 10th most played rivalry in FBS history with the 119th meeting.

• The Wildcats’ average margin of victory over the last 12 years is 27.1, while they have hit the 45-point mark in half of those contests.

• Kansas State has won each of the last six meetings in Manhattan, the latest being a 38-10 victory in 2019.

A LONG-STANDING RIVALRY

• The Dillons Sunflower Showdown is not only one of the most played rivalries in FBS history but one of the longest uninterrupted series. Saturday’s matchup will be the 119th all-time meeting between the two schools, which will be tied for 10th all-time in FBS history.

• It will also be the 111th-straight season K-State and KU will meet on the gridiron, which will be the third longest uninterrupted series at the conclusion of the year.

 

ONE OF THE BIG 12’S BEST

• K-State ranks third in Big 12 wins since the league’s inception in 1996, trailing only Oklahoma and Texas.

• The Wildcats also rank third in the conference in winning percentage since round-robin play began in 2011. They sit at 57.9% (55-40), trailing only Oklahoma (83.2%; 79-16) and Oklahoma State (65.2%; 62-33).

 

LOOKING FOR BOWL ELIGIBILITY

• With a win over Kansas, K-State would move to 6-3 and will qualify for its 23rd bowl in school history.

• Since 1990, K-State has qualified for the postseason 22 times, with the latest being in 2019.

Chris Klieman is trying to become the first coach in school history to send his team to a bowl twice in his first three seasons.

• In 2019, Klieman became the second coach in school history to take the Wildcats to a bowl in their first year as coach.

 

IMPRESSIVE RESUME

• The three opponents that the Wildcats defeated in non-conference play have found success when not playing K-State, as Stanford, Southern Illinois and Nevada have combined for a 15-6 record in their other games.

• The average score for those three teams in their games not against K-State is 34.9-24.4.

• K-State’s first three Big 12 opponents – Oklahoma (4th), Oklahoma State (15th) and Iowa State (RV) – are each listed in the Associated Press Poll.

• SIU has turned out to be one of the best FCS teams in the nation, ranking seventh in this week’s Coaches’ Poll.

• The Wildcats’ eight opponents this year are a combined 41-17 when not playing K-State with wins over Baylor, Boise State (twice), Cal, USC, Nebraska, Oregon, TCU, Texas (twice) and West Virginia (twice).

• Entering play this week, K-State’s strength of schedule ranks as one of the best in the nation, checking in at No. 7 in the Sagarin Ratings.

 

A WINNING HISTORY

• A proven winner with a championship history, Chris Klieman holds an 89-27 career record, as his 76.7% career winning percentage ranks third among current FBS coaches that have led programs for at least eight years.

• Klieman came to Manhattan after capping his five-year stint as head coach at North Dakota State by winning his fourth national championship in 2018. Klieman guided the 2018 Bison to a perfect 15-0 record.

 

WINNING THE FINAL FRAME

• Kansas State has been strong in the fourth quarter of games this season, as the Wildcats are outscoring their opponents, 81-30, in the final frame.

• The 51-point margin through the first eight games of 2021 is the highest by the Wildcats through eight games since the 2012 squad had a 76-point margin (118-42).

 

CATS TOPS IN NON-OFFENSIVE TDs

• K-State is the nation’s best in non-offensive touchdowns over the last 23 seasons as it has 124 since 1999, seven more than the next closest team.

• Kansas State already has two non-offensive scores this year as Malik Knowles returned a kickoff for a touchdown at Oklahoma State and against Oklahoma.

• Last year, K-State had three non-offensive touchdowns in its over Kansas as Phillip Brooks returned two punts for scores, and Justin Gardner had a pick-six. It was the first time the Cats had three in one game since doing so against Montana State in 2008.

• K-State has had at least five non-offensive scores in seven of the last 10 years. Last year, the Cats missed that mark by just one during their shortened 10-game schedule.

 

OFFENSIVE NOTES

DOWN THE FIELD

• Traditionally a running-oriented offense, the Wildcats have been pushing the ball down the field more this year, as K-State is tied for 20th nationally with seven plays of 50 or more yards.

• K-State started the season with at least one 50-yard play from scrimmage in its first five games to become the first Wildcat team with a five-game streak since at least 1988.

• Of the seven total 50-yard plays by K-State this year, six have been passes, including scores by Daniel Imatorbhebhe against Nevada (68 yards) and TCU (73 yards) and Deuce Vaughn at Oklahoma State (55 yards). Vaughn has the lone rush of 50 or more yards, going for a 59-yard touchdown in the season opener against Stanford.

• Out of Vaughn’s 175 touches this year, 36 have gone for 10 or more yards to rank ninth in the nation and lead the Big 12.

 

RED ZONE SUCCESS

• In the first two-plus years under offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham, Kansas State has converted on 104-of-111 (93.7%) of its red zone opportunities, which includes 74 touchdowns.

• Included in that is a streak of 67-straight red zone conversions, as the Wildcats were true on their final 39 tries of 2019 and their first 24 opportunities of 2020.

• K-State’s 93.7% conversion rate since 2019 is the top mark in the Big 12.

• The Wildcats are the only team in the nation to rank in the top five in red zone offense each of the previous two years, leading the nation in 2019 (96.2%) and ranking fourth last year (93.9%).

 

AN EXPERIENCED SIGNAL CALLER

Skylar Thompson has started each of the last four games after missing the previous two contests due to injury.

• Thompson has started 36 career games, the most by a Wildcat since at least 1990. Of those 36 starts, the Wildcats have 21 victories, as he is just one win shy of tying for first among K-State signal callers since 1990 (Ell Roberson, Collin Klein, Michael Bishop).

 

CUTTING IT LOOSE

Skylar Thompson is in the midst of one of the better four-game passing stretches of his career, combining to go 81-of-115 (70.4%) for 1,074 yards with seven touchdowns and only two interceptions.

• It is the most passing yards by a K-State quarterback over a four-game stretch since the final four games of Jake Waters’ career in 2014 (1,332 yards).

• Against Oklahoma, Thompson set career highs in completions (29) and attempts (41), and he had the second-most yards in his career (320).

• Thompson’s 29 completions were the most by a Wildcat since Jake Waters had 31 in the 2015 Alamo Bowl (after the 2014 regular season).

• At Texas Tech, Thompson threw for 306 yards – the third 300-yard game of his career – and went 24-for-30, as his 80% completion mark against the Red Raiders was a career-best. His previous high was a 76.9% mark in 2017 against Iowa State and 2019 against Bowling Green.

• Thompson’s performance at Texas Tech included a 14-for-15 clip in the second half. His 93.3% completion rate in the final 30 minutes was highest in one half (minimum 15 attempts) by a K-State quarterback since Josh Freeman went 15-for-16 (93.75%) in the first half at Colorado in 2006.

 

ICE IN HIS VEINS

Skylar Thompson has led the Wildcats on six career touchdown drives in the fourth quarter or later to either tie or take the lead.

• Those six drives are tied for the most among K-State quarterbacks since 1990 along with current quarterbacks coach Collin Klein.

• Klein’s six drives came in 2011 against Eastern Washington, Miami, Baylor, Texas A&M and Iowa State, and in 2012 at Oklahoma.

 

FIRST IN SCHOOL HISTORY

• During the game at Texas Tech, Skylar Thompson became the first player in school history to throw for 6,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a career.

• Thompson is one of just 11 active players in the nation to reach the 6,000/1,000 career marks.

• Additionally, the Independence Missouri, native ranks in the top 10 in school history in 15 career categories. A detailed list of records can be found on pages 53-54.

 

DEUCE ON THE LOOSE

• A product of Round Rock, Texas, Deuce Vaughn has been one of the best all-purpose backs in K-State history over the first 18 games of his career.

• Vaughn is just the third player in school history to eclipse 2,000 career all-purpose yards prior to the end of his sophomore year, joining Tyler Lockett and Darren Sproles. However, Vaughn was the quickest amongst the three to reach that mark, doing so in his 17th career game. Lockett reached it in his 18th game, while Sproles got there in his 19th game.

• In addition, Vaughn ranks third nationally with 126.44 all-purpose yards per game on a list that also includes two other Big 12 running backs in Iowa State’s Breece Hall (2nd; 127.94)  and Texas’ Bijan Robinson (5th; 123.12).

 

ON THE RECEIVING END

• One of the main reasons Deuce Vaughn has a high all-purpose yardage mark is his work as a receiver, as he ranks third in school history among running backs/fullbacks with 785 career receiving yards.

• Vaughn leads all Big 12 running backs in receptions (32) and yards (351) this year, while he is tied for first in touchdown catches (3).

• Vaughn also has the second-most receiving yards by any running back nationally since the start of 2020 (Hawaii’s Calvin Turner Jr.; 1,170 yards).

• Vaughn is trying to become the first player in school history with 1,000 career yards as both a rusher and a receiver. The closest a Wildcat came to accomplishing that feat was Mack Herron (1968-69), who had 1,244 receiving yards and 815 rushing yards.

• If Vaughn hit the 1,000/1,000 mark, he would be one of only 11 players in Big 12 history to do so. However, if he did so this year, he would become just the second to reach the milestone as a sophomore (Taurean Henderson, Texas Tech), which would be impressive considering Vaughn’s young career included a shortened 10-game freshman season in 2020 due to COVID-19.

 

WELL-TRAVELED TIGHT END

• Kansas State transfer tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe is making a splash with the Wildcats in his seventh and final season of college football.

• Imatorbhebhe is second among Big 12 tight ends with 274 receiving yards. That mark includes touchdowns of 68 yards (vs. Nevada) and 73 yards (vs. TCU), the latter being the second-longest reception by a tight end in school history.

• He is the only tight end in the nation this year with two receptions of 65 yards or longer, while he is the first K-State tight end with two in a season since at least 1977.

• K-State is Imatorbhebhe’s fourth FBS school as he signed and went through spring practices with Florida in 2015, transferred to USC for the 2015 through 2019 seasons and spent the 2020 campaign at Illinois.

• He is one of just two active players to have spent time at four FBS schools, joining Texas Tech offensive lineman T.J. Storment (Old Dominion, Colorado State, TCU).

 

DEFENSIVE NOTES

RUN STOPPERS

• In eight games this season, K-State has allowed just 968 total yards rushing on 273 carries, as the Wildcats rank 26th nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (121.0) and 30th in yards allowed per rush (3.55).

• Stanford rushed for 39 yards in the 2021 opener, Southern Illinois had 100 yards on 40 carries, while Nevada had 25 yards.

• It was the first time the Wildcats allowed 100 or fewer rushing yards in three-straight games since the first three games of the 2007 season against Auburn (62), San Jose State (73) and Missouri State (69).

 

FEWER EXPLOSIVES

• One area of emphasis for the Wildcat defense in 2021 was to limit opponents’ explosive plays. Through the first eight games, K-State has allowed 31 plays of 20 or more yards to rank third in the Big 12.

• It is the Wildcats’ fewest 20-plus yard plays allowed through eight games since the 2014 team surrendered 22. In the first eight games last year, K-State conceded 44 plays of 20 or more yards.

• K-State has allowed eight runs this year of 20 or more yards, the fewest in the first eight games of a season since the 2017 allowed five.

 

BEHIND THE LINE

• Kansas State has tallied at least six tackles for loss in six of the first eight games this year, as 23 players have at least a half TFL.

• K-State is on pace for 78 tackles for loss in the regular season, which would be its highest mark since the 2007 team had 80 to tie for 10th in school history.

• The Wildcats tallied a season-high 10 TFLs against TCU, the most since they had 13 at Baylor last year.

 

MEET ME AT THE QB

• Through eight games in 2021, K-State is ranked first in the Big 12 at 2.75 sacks per game (22 total).

• Kansas State has at least one sack in 29 of the 31 games since Chris Klieman took over as head coach in 2019 with the lone non-sack games being the 2019 opener against Nicholls and this year against Iowa State.

• The 27-game sack streak that was snapped against Iowa State was the longest by the Wildcats since a 29-game streak that spanned the 1995 through 1997 seasons.

• Last season, K-State totaled 28 sacks in 10 games, which were the most for the Wildcats during an entire season since a 13-game 2016 campaign (30).

• K-State is on pace for 33 sacks in the regular season, which would be its highest mark since the 2015 team had 38.

 

STRONG AT THE START

• The K-State defense has been strong at the beginning of games since the start of 2020 as 11 of the Wildcats’ last 18 opponents have come up empty on their first possession of the game.

• Over the last 18 games, K-State has allowed only 21 total first downs (1.3 per game), while drives have covered just 536 total yards (30.8 yards).

• Included in that span is four three-and-outs and an interception this year against Nevada.

 

DEPTH IN THE SECONDARY

• Of the six defensive transfers K-State brought in prior to the 2021 season, four are in the secondary.

• Including the 2021 season, that group has combined for 96 career Division I starts by Julius Brents, Cincere Mason, Reggie Stubblefield and Russ Yeast.

• Prior to coming to K-State, Yeast started 29 games over four years at Louisville, Mason started 28 games over three seasons at Kennesaw State, Stubblefield started 18 games over four years at Prairie View A&M, and Brents started five games in 2018 at Iowa.

• Pairing the 96 starts from the transfers with the rest of the secondary, the Wildcats are currently at 169 combined career starts by defensive backs.

 

KING FELIX

• Defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah has broken out during his sophomore season as he ranks second in the nation in sacks and forced fumbles, and ranks 13th in tackles for loss. All three of those figures are a Big 12 best.

• A native of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Anudike-Uzomah has 10.0 sacks this season, a half sack shy of entering the school’s top-10 list and 1.5 shy of tying the school record.

• He currently ranks third in school history in sacks among sophomores, just 1.5 shy of tying that record.

• Anudike-Uzomah has recorded at least 3.0 sacks in two games, the only player in the nation this year to accomplish that feat and the first in school history with two 3.0-sack games in a season.

 

FELIX’S HISTORIC GAME

Felix Anudike-Uzomah tallied 4.0 sacks, forced two fumbles and totaled eight tackles against TCU, earning him Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.

• His four sacks tied the school record originally set by Chris Johnson at Missouri in 2000. However, Anudike-Uzomah was close to tying the NCAA record of 6.0.

• His two forced fumbles came on potential sacks that caused the ball to be recovered beyond the original line of scrimmage, thus making them rushes by NCAA rule. If the ball had been recovered on the TCU side of the line – regardless of who recovered – those two would have been counted as sacks to tie the FBS record and break the Big 12 mark.

 

DEFENSE’S “DEUCE”

• Nicknamed “Deuce” by the defensive staff, linebacker Daniel Green has been impressive as a full-time starter for the first time in his career.

• Green leads the team with 49 tackles and ranks second with 6.0 tackles for loss despite missing two full halves this year due to targeting calls.

• A product of Portland, Oregon, Green has totaled nine tackles in three different games this season, coming against Stanford, Nevada and TCU. It is the second time in three years a Wildcat has posted at least nine tackles in three different games (Elijah Sullivan in 2019).

 

SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES

SCORING IN THE THIRD PHASE

• One of the main reasons the Wildcats have been a successful program the last three decades is a knack for momentum-swinging plays in the return game.

• Since 2005 (17 seasons), the Wildcats have a combined 57 kickoff- and punt-return touchdowns, 20 more than second-place Alabama (37) and 26 more than the next closest Big 12 team (Oklahoma State: 31).

• Of the 57 total returns, a nation-leading 31 are on kickoff returns. The next closest team is San Diego State with 19.

 

DEFENSE ON KICK RETURNS

• On the flipside, K-State has excelled in kickoff-return defense, as the Wildcats have gone 106-consecutive games and 347 kickoff returns defended without allowing a score. The last team to take one to paydirt on K-State was Louisiana in 2013.

• K-State 106-game streak ranks seventh in the nation behind Florida State (230), Memphis (165), Akron (129), Virginia Tech (111), UTEP (109) and New Mexico (107).

• The Wildcats have scored 14 kickoff-return touchdowns since surrendering their last one.

 

KNOWLES WITH A KNACK

• Junior Malik Knowles is the latest K-State kickoff return man with a knack of finding the end zone as he has three in his career, which includes scores this year against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.

• Knowles is tied for fourth in school history in both career and single-season kickoff return touchdowns, while he is tied for fourth nationally among active players in career kickoff-return scores.

• Additionally, he holds a 31.2-yard average this year and a 27.4-yard average for his career. His mark this season ranks third in the nation, while his career figure ranks sixth nationally among active players.

 

ZENTNER HAS BEEN IMPRESSIVE

• Punter Ty Zentner has averaged 46.9 yards per punt overall this year to rank third in the Big 12. His average would rank in the top 15 nationally if he had four more punts to meet the NCAA required minimum.

• In Big 12 games only, Zentner ranks second in the league with a 50.41-yard average, just 0.01 yds per punt behind the leader. His performance during Big 12 play includes a league-leading 11 punts of 50 or more yards. Last season, Zentner only had five total punts of 50 or more yards.

• At Texas Tech, Zentner had a single game career-best average of 55.7 yards per punt, which ranks 11th in the nation for a game this season.

• One of his punts against the Red Raiders was a 63-yarder – the second longest of his career – which immediately preceded at K-State safety that swung the game in the Wildcats’ favor.

 

BROOKS LOOKS TO ADD TO IMPRESSIVE RESUME

• Junior Phillip Brooks was one of the top return men in the nation last season as he was a Third Team All-American selection after averaging 23.7 yards on 11 attempts.

• This year, Brooks has earned Preseason All-America honors from Phil Steele, USA TODAY, CBS Sports and 247Sports.

• A product of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Brooks ranks second in school history and tied for sixth in Big 12 history with three punt-return touchdowns, while he is 21 yards shy of entering the school’s top-10 list for career punt return yards.

• He ranks first nationally among active players in yards per return (16.5) and return touchdowns (3).

• Last season against Kansas, Brooks returned two punts for scores – the most by a Big 12 player in conference game in league history – while his 47.25-yard average against the Jayhawks was the highest by any player in the nation since at least 1996 (minimum 4 attempts).

 

WINKEL STARTS SEASON AS KICKER

• Junior Taiten Winkel took the first reps as the Wildcats’ place kicker this season, the first time in three years that K-State has broken in a new kicker.

• So far this season, Winkel has connected on 7-of-9 field goal attempts, which includes a long of 45 yards at Oklahoma State. Additionally, Winkel is 22-for-23 on extra-point attempts, including a 5-for-5 mark against Nevada.

• Prior to K-State, Winkel was primarily a punter at Butler Community College as he was just 1-for-3 on field goals in 2019.

 

TENNANT SEES FIRST ACTION

• True freshman Chris Tennant saw his first-career action against TCU, making a 42-yard field goal and all four extra-point attempts.

• He is the first true freshman at K-State to make a field goal since Joe Rheem went 4-of-6 on field goals in 2001.