No. 21 Kansas State staves off No. 25 Kansas in primetime

Published: Nov. 18, 2023 at 9:26 PM CST
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - The 121st Sunflower Showdown was one of the more anticipated games in recent memory of this rivalry and it lived up to it with K-State just squeezing out a win, 31-27.

Jason Bean did not start for Kansas after suffering a head injury in the Texas Tech loss and true freshman Cole Ballard drew the start.

The Wildcats started hot with a Will Howard pass to Jayce Brown for 46 yards on the games first play and then three plays later Howard found Ben Sinnott for a 11-yard score to put the ‘Cats up in a hurry, 7-0 two minutes into the game.

It took a little bit for KU to score but the Lawrence native Devin Neal put KU up on the board with a 36-yard TD after a 11 play 86 yard drive to tie it up at seven, two minutes to go in the first quarter.

Then in the second quarter, Neal scored against from nine yards away but then the P-A-T was blocked and scooped up by Keenan Garber for a defensive conversion, which added two points on the board for K-State, making it 13-9.

But K-State would answer with a Howard pass to Keagan Johnson, his second receiving catch as a ‘Cat, and Kansas State re-took the lead at 16-13.

Then right before the half, Cole Ballard threw his first career touchdown to Lawrence Arnold for a five-yard house call, putting Kansas up 20-16 at the break. Ballard finished the first half 8-10 with 83 yards and 26 rush yards. Neal had eight carries, 81 yards and those two touchdowns. KU had 144 rush yards in the first half, the most all season in one half.

KU had 227 total yards in the first half compared to K-State’s 167 and Kansas had the ball all of 10 minutes in that first half. Howard was 8-13 for 96 yards and DJ Giddens had 64 yards on the ground.

Just a minute and half into the second half, Neal scored his third touchdown of the game, giving Kansas its biggest lead of the game, 27-16 and that was their first double digit lead against the ‘Cats since at least 2015.

Another long drive for K-State after DJ Giddens punched it up the middle, 10 plays, 87 yards later and a two-point conversion, the Wildcats cut the deficit to 27-24.

Both teams turned it over with interceptions and but then a muffed punt by KU in the fourth quarter led to a vintage Howard QB run from 14-yards away and K-State regained the lead again, 31-27 with 10 minutes to play.

Ballard finished at 11-16, 162 yards in the air, one touchdown and two interceptions and 55 rush yards. Neal had 18 carries, 138 rush yards and three touchdowns. Mason Fairchild led KU in receiving with one catch for 59 yards.

DJ Giddens had 21 carries, 102 rush yards and one score. Howard ended at 13-24, 165 rush yards, two touchdowns, one interception, 18 rush yards and a TD. Brown led the ‘Cats with 96 yards.

That’s the 15th straight win for K-State in this rivalry.