MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP)Kansas State coach Chris Klieman didn’t want to back into the Big 12 title game by having Texas lose to Baylor.
He wanted his Wildcats to earn their spot in Arlington.
So after the Longhorns took care of business a day earlier, the No. 15 Wildcats stepped onto the field Saturday night and demolished their biggest rival. Will Howard threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns, Deuce Vaughn ran for 147 yards and a score, and Kansas State routed Kansas 47-27 to earn a shot at payback against TCU next weekend.
”The guys needed to earn this,” Klieman said after drying out from three-plus hours spent in the rain. ”We’re smart enough to realize there was a lot of prssure on us as a coaching staff, us as players, to finish this deal, and we had one more chapter in the regular season and they finished it he right way and earned the opportunity.”
Kansas State blew a 28-10 lead and lost 38-28 to the Horned Frogs during the regular season. Now, they’ll face each other again on Dec. 3 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with a College Football Playoff spot likely on the line for TCU.
It will be the first time the Wildcats play in the Big 12 title game, which went on hiatus from 2010-17, since toppling then-No. 1 Oklahoma in 2003 during Hall of Fame coach Bill Snyder’s first tenure. The Horned Frogs were beaten by the Sooners in their only previous appearance in the 2017 championship game.
”I’m not sure they’re going to want to see us again,” Kansas State safety Drake Cheatum said, ”but we’ll be ready.”
Malik Knowles added a pair of touchdown runs, and Philip Brooks and Sammy Wheeler also reached the end zone, as the Wildcats (9-3, 7-2, No. 12 CFP) beat the Jayhawks for the 14th straight time in a game they needed to win.
Jalon Daniels threw for 168 yards while running for a touchdown, and Devin Neal also had two TD runs, as the Jayhawks – bowl-bound for the first time since 2008 – finished the regular season by losing six of their final seven games.
”Jalon was able to run the ball a little bit tonight. We were a little more active in the option game than we have bene in a while. It gave us a chance,” Jayhawks coach Lance Leipold said, ”but obviously not enough.”
Kansas (6-6, 3-6) made enough mistakes in the first quarter alone Saturday night to fill an entire game.
The result was a hole it could never escape.
The trouble began when O.J. Burroughs muffed a punt after a nice stand by the Jayhawks’ defense, and Knowles needed one play to scoot in from the 5 for a touchdown. And after Kansas answered with a 75-yard scoring drive, its defense blew the coverage on Wheeler on a 42-yard touchdown pass.
On the ensuing kickoff, Trevor Wilson was mobbed at the 10-yard line, and another penalty on the return buried the Kansas offense. On third down, Bryce Cabeldue was called for holding in the end zone to give Kansas State a safety.
After the free kick, the Wildcats cruised to the end zone again for a 23-7 lead after one quarter.
”Special teams created some big plays,” Leipold said, ”and we just couldn’t get the key drive when we needed to.”
The game soon turned into a track meet: Kansas marched through a suddenly driving rainstorm for two quick touchdowns around another score by the Wildcats, leaving them with a 30-21 advantage heading into the break.
Another major mistake by Kansas in the third quarter – a fumble by Torry Locklin – gave the Wildcats another short field, and Vaughn carried eight times on a nine-play drive before finding the end zone and putting the game out of reach.
”It wasn’t easy and I knew it wouldn’t be. It was wet out there, affected things a little bit, but in all three phases someone stepped up,” Klieman said. ”We were able to rush the football later on – we ran it a bunch in the third and fourth quarter – and we got stops on defense when we needed stops.”
Kansas has built a reputation under Leipold for playing mistake-free football, yet it was a multitude of errors on both sides of the ball that gave the Wildcats more opportunities than they needed to hold onto the Governor’s Cup.
Kansas State has struggled defensively the past two weeks, giving up 31 points to West Virginia before coughing up plenty of yards against the Jayhawks. Joe Klanderman’s bunch will need to do better against the Horned Frogs.
The Wildcats have a week to prepare for TCU, while Kansas awaits its bowl destination.
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