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October 27, 2008

Defenses limp into Sunflower Showdown

Kansas State players didn't spend much time toiling over the events that led to their 58-35 loss to fourth-ranked Oklahoma on Saturday. Carrying a game-at-a-time approach, the Wildcats immediately looked toward their next contest and an always-important meeting at Kansas, where the Jayhawks have stumbled upon hard times with back-to-back losses as well. While K-State gave up 58 points to both the Sooners and Texas Tech, the Jayhawks were licking their wounds following a 63-14 loss to the Red Raiders.

High-scoring games have become the norm in the Big 12 Conference, where teams have hit half-a-hundred 22 times overall and have reached 40 points in 13 of 24 league games with four weeks to go in the regular season.

The Sooners ripped Kansas, 45-31, and K-State in consecutive weeks. The Red Raiders handed the Wildcats their worst home loss in 12 years during a 58-28 drilling four weeks before the Sooners put 55 points on the Wildcats in the first half, their most in an opening half in school history.

Texas Tech ended the Kansas' 13-game home winning streak and dropped the Jayhawks out of the polls for the first time in 19 weeks by giving them their worst loss since a 66-14 loss to Texas in 2005.

"As a defensive player, you don't like to see that but it is what it is," K-State defensive end Ian Campbell said. "I'd rather it be 20-0 or some of the scores you used to see back in the day, but you've got to take what you can get. I don't really think the defenses are poor in the Big 12. Our offenses are just that good. There's no question there are a lot of talented defenders in the Big 12 and it's just hard to stop all of these offenses."

Kansas, 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the Big 12, scored a season-low 14 points against the Red Raiders. K-State, 4-4 and 1-3, can sympathize; it mustered only 13 in a one-point loss at Colorado one week before.

Still, K-State ranks No. 13 nationally in averaging 38.5 points, while Kansas sits at No. 32 with 32.3. Could the 106th meeting between the two rivals in the Sunflower Showdown fashion itself into an old-fashioned shootout?

"I have…no…idea," K-State quarterback Josh Freeman said. "Honestly, I have no idea. We had the game (at Colorado) where we put up only 13 points. (Kansas) has a good defense and offense. I know Texas Tech has a great offense and they always score a lot of points."

The K-State defense continues to struggle but has managed one bright spot. It has allowed just three points during the second half of its last two games. Meanwhile, the Kansas defense virtually flat-lined against two of the top 5 offenses in the nation. After allowing 108 total points in their first six games, the Jayhawks gave up 108 points in two weeks.

YARDS-A-PLENTY
How the Wildcats and Jayhawks defenses graded out in their meetings against Oklahoma and Texas Tech:
KSU KU
Pass 745 886
Rush 409 334
Total 1,154 1,230
TDs 15 15
TOs 2 1
Points 58, 58 45, 63

Kansas allowed 15 touchdowns and 1,230 total yards on 29 possessions against Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

"I wouldn't say I'm not surprised," K-State wide receiver Ernie Pierce said. "Texas Tech has a powerful offense and can score at will."

Pierce points to the second half in the last two games. He believes the Wildcats' offense, which managed just seven points during the final two quarters in each of the last two games, must step up.

"You saw our defense today," Pierce said. "Now it's time for the offense to do it. They've worked hard enough. Now it's time for us to pay them for it. They've shut out two teams in the second half. Now it's our turn to answer the bell."

The Wildcats know both teams will enter the 11:30 a.m. kickoff on Fox Sports Net carrying plenty of motivation.

Kansas needs just one win to become the first in school history to gain bowl eligibility in back-to-back seasons. K-State needs to win two of its final four -- at Kansas, at Missouri and against Nebraska and Iowa State -- in order to become eligible for the postseason.

Kansas has won three of the last four in the series and three of the last four have been decided by single digits, including a 30-24 win by Kansas last season in Manhattan.

"They've gotten the best of us three out of the last four years, the last two years in particular," said K-State head coach Ron Prince, who is 0-2 against Kansas. "We'll have our jaws set."

And hopefully for K-State, which hopes to avoid its first three-game losing streak in the series since 1988-90, it will have its arsenal ready.

K-State put up at least 40 points in seven straight meetings between 1997 and 2003 prior to a 31-28 loss in Lawrence in 2004, which snapped an 11-game winning streak by the Wildcats in the series.

K-State hasn't allowed Kansas to score 40 points in 47 consecutive meetings dating back to a 41-0 Kansas win on Sept. 24, 1960.

"It's a dogfight," K-State strong safety Courtney Herndon said. "Both teams are hungry. Both teams have lost their last two games. Something has to give. Somebody has to win this one.

"I think it's going to be us."



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