Special teams, penalties and turnovers: How Kansas fell to KSU in Sunflower Showdown

Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle

Kansas’ surprising, highly successful 2022 football season will include a bowl game — but not a victory over rival Kansas State in the Sunflower Showdown.

Quarterback Will Howard threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns and wide receiver Malik Knowles rushed for two scores as the Wildcats (9-3, 7-2 Big 12) upended the Jayhawks (6-6, 3-6) 47-27 on Saturday night at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

KU QB Jalon Daniels completed 20 of 32 passes for 168 yards (no passing scores) and rushed for 51 yards on eight carries with one TD, but it wasn’t enough. The Jayhawks dropped their 14th consecutive game to the rival Wildcats, who advanced to the Big 12 championship game (vs. TCU) with the win.

KU, with six wins, has qualified for a bowl game in Lance Leipold’s second season at KU.

Running back Devin Neal had 59 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns for KU. The Jayhawks gained 307 total yards to Kansas State’s 443.

The Wildcats spoiled a week in which it was revealed Leipold had agreed to a new contract that could keep him in Lawrence through 2029. He had been rumored to be a possible candidate for openings at Nebraska and Wisconsin.

Deuce Vaughn gained 147 yards on 25 carries and scored a TD for K-State, which prevented KU from winning seven games for the first time since 2008, when the Jayhawks finished 8-5 and won the Insight Bowl. Vaughn also caught two passes for 82 yards.

The Cats also prevented KU from claiming its third road win of the season.

The Jayhawks made a critical mistake that cost them seven points in the early going. Return man O.J. Burroughs fumbled a punt at the KU 5-yard line. The Wildcats covered that distance in one play, as Knowles carried it in to make it 7-0 K-State.

KU tied it at 7-7 on a 12-yard run by Torry Locklin with 7 minutes, 49 seconds left in the first quarter. Locklin’s score capped a 9-play, 75-yard drive.

K-State made it 14-7 when Howard hit a wide open Sammy Wheeler for a 42-yard TD pass with 5:06 left in the first. After another special-teams gaffe, a penalty on a kickoff return that stuck KU inside its own 10, KU lineman Bryce Cabeldue was called for holding in the end zone, which meant a safety for K-State. The Wildcats led 16-7 with 4:11 left in the first quarter.

Next, K-State made it 23-7 on a 4-yard run by Knowles that capped a 9-play, 61-yard drive. KU sliced the gap to 23-14 on an 11-yard run by Neal, but K-State answered by scoring on a 14-yard pass from Howard to Phillip Brooks with 9:09 left before halftime. The TD was set up by an 80-yard reception and run by Vaughn. K-State led by 16, 30-14.

KU cut the deficit to nine points, 30-21, on a 3-yard TD run by Neal; KU went 75 yards in seven plays in immediately answering K-State’s TD. That was the margin at halftime.

In the second half, KU’s Locklin lost a fumble at the KU 38, leading to a short 8-play, 38-yard scoring drive by the Wildcats. It was still a hard-earned score, as K-State had the ball for a first-and-goal at the 3 but needed four rushes to reach paydirt. Vaughn scored on a fourth-and-goal call from the 1. It was 37-21 with 6:59 to play in the third quarter.

KU cut the gap to 37-27 with 13:39 left on a 1-yard run by Daniels that capped a long 16-play, 75-yard drive. KU’s ensuing 2-point conversion try appeared to be successful when Jason Bean’s pass reached the hands of Mason Fairchild, but the KU tight end dropped the ball. Bean had entered because Daniels was shaken up on the 1-yard TD score.

The Wildcats added a field goal to go up 13 and then scored the knockout punch with a late touchdown.