Wildcats expect 11th straight Governor's Cup
Kansas State linebacker Josh Buhl says, "We're proud they're (Kansas) on the rise, but we're still K-State."
In Buhl's mind, that means that the Wildcats will earn an 11th consecutive Governor' s Cup as victors of the 101st Sunflower Classic on Saturday between Kansas State University and the University of Kansas.
Yes ... 11th consecutive, which leaves at least one Jayhawk, junior safety Tony Stubbs, not even realizing what goes to the winning team.
"Everybody wants us to beat the Wildcats this year so we can bring... it's called the Flower Cup? Some trophy ... I don't even know what it's called, but we're supposed to bring it home."
Saturday in a 1:10 p.m. kickoff at KSU Stadium, it will be 5-3 Kansas State against 5-2 Kansas with the victor still in decent position to win the Big 12's North Division. The Wildcats are 1-2 in the Big 12; the Jayhawks 2-1.
It's that Jayhawk start to the season, the program' s best since 1995 (7-0), that has second-year coach Mark Mangino believing that they can end the 10-game streak.
"I think that confidence is the most important factor that we have built here," said Mangino. "I think when it comes to playing with intensity and confidence, we would rank high in the conference."
But after Saturday' s 49-20 thrashing of Colorado, K-State is also playing with confidence, not to mention an urgency that they will likely have to win-out in order to reach the Big 12's title game in Kansas City.
"I don't think the emphasis is on the Governor's Cup," said KSU quarterback Ell Roberson. "It's more of a team thing of going out there and handling our business and staying on track.
"We have a motto that we' ve started a new season and that we're 1-0," Roberson continued. "We have to continue to be 1-0 and KU comes next."
Roberson is coming off his best five quarters of the year - 30-of-44 for 400 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions - which includes the final period at Oklahoma State and the game last week against CU.
"We are taking it play by play and taking what they give us," Roberson said of KSU's recent success. "If they put a lot in the box, we'll throw the ball. If they want to drop people back, we'll get it to the little man (Darren Sproles) and let him do his magic."
KU counters with Bill Whittemore, who is passing for 269 yards per game with a 63 percent completion rate and a remarkable 15-to-2 ratio in touchdowns-to-interceptions.
"What I see in Bill is a tough-minded quarterback," said KSU coach Bill Snyder. "He throws the ball well and understands the offense. He's kind of a Chad May-type. He knows where people are going to be and how to get the ball to them."
And along with Roberson providing 75 rushing yards per game, Whittemore is also a foot-threat averaging 51 rushing yards per game.
Sproles enters the game for the Wildcats averaging 106 rushing yards per game, plus is just 17 yards shy of the all-time K-State rushing record.
"Darren Sproles, with one carry, can take it to the end zone," said Mangino. And he added, "Ell Roberson can beat you throwing the ball and running. They are a dangerous threat together. Our defense has to be sharp. We have to be sound."
But so must K-State's defense in stopping Whittemore's support cast of Clark Green and John Randle with respective rushing averages of 85 and 44 yards per game.
In addition, four Jayhawk receivers have caught between 22 to 27 passes with Mark Simmons' 27 grabs for an average of 90 yards per game and six touchdowns being high.
"They have nice players ... competitive young guys," Snyder said of the KU receivers. "They spread it around pretty good."
While scoring at least 35 points in five of its games, Kansas is also improved on the defensive side where linebackers Gabe Toomey (77 tackles, 7 for negative yards), Nick Reid (67 tackles), plus Stubbs (56 tackles) leading the way.
"They're playing awfully well," Snyder said of the KU defense. "They've done a nice job of putting a package together and not scrambling around trying to out-fox anyone. They're a good, solid football team. They' re forcing turnovers and not giving up big plays."
But it' s also true that KU is allowing 387 yards per game - 167 rushing and 220 passing.
Mangino admits that K-State's defense - allowing 305 yards per game -- may not have the manpower of past years, but he says, "They are trying to make up for it with aggressive, hard-nosed football. They play that hard and swarm to the football."
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