A current 12-game winning streak for Kansas State in its Big 12 series against in-state rival Kansas caught the eye of new Kansas coach Lance Leipold.
Before Leipold participates in his first Sunflower Showdown on Saturday at Lawrence, Kan., he knows the Jayhawks (1–7, 0–5 Big 12) must make alterations to improve against the Wildcats (5–3, 2–3).
“One thing that’s apparent is we need more guys from the state of Kansas on this roster,” Leipold said, noting a disparity that favors Kansas State.
In turn, such roster construction could promote the will and spirit necessary to overcome a lopsided differential that finds Kansas State averaging a 40–13 margin of victory against Kansas over the past quarter-century.
“It’s my responsibility,” Leipold added, “to build this program to where the rivalry is more balanced and is one our alums can get behind.”
Kansas has to make some noise on the field before it can be territorial with a rivalry in which the Jayhawks have largely been a doormat.
Kansas State fans could conceivably take to the road and outnumber Kansas fans, especially with the Wildcats on a two-game winning streak following an 0-3 start in conference play.
Each of those wins happened to influence administrators at Texas Tech and TCU to fire coaches Matt Wells and Gary Patterson, respectively.
Opponents should probably not sleep on the Wildcats’ key playmakers. Veteran engineer Skyler Thompson is completing 70 percent of his passes, while shifty all-purpose threat Deuce Vaughn has 1,055 yards from scrimmage with 12 touchdowns.
Felix Anudike-Uzomah got credited with four sacks in last week’s 31–12 victory over TCU, but only after his initial total of six, which tied the FBS record, was revised because of an NCAA technicality. He caused fumbles on the two other sacks, but because the loose balls resulted in gains, that statistic record of those sacks got erased.
Whatever the count, the disruption caused by Anudike–Uzomah has contributed to a resurgence for the Wildcats defense, which blanked Texas Tech in the second half and held TCU to three points on its first three trips inside the Kansas State 5-yard line.
“He brought a lot of energy with each sack, and you could tell that everyone knew the kind of game he was having,” Wildcats coach Chris Klieman said, while adding that improvement from an aggressive secondary has helped pass-rushers create pressure.
Kansas could not sustain any momentum after carrying a lead into the fourth quarter against Oklahoma on Oct. 23. While impressive in the scare they gave the undefeated Sooners, the Jayhawks flat-lined a week ago in a 55–3 defeat at Oklahoma State.
Contributors on offense have shown promise, including one of those in-state recruits Leipold would like to corral more frequently. Devin Neal has emerged as a freshman starter and has two 100-yard performances as part of his team-high rushing total.