Kansas football came up short for the 15th consecutive time in the Sunflower Showdown due to a handful of costly second-half mistakes.
Kansas football fell 31-27 in a poorly played thriller, extending the losing streak in the Sunflower Showdown to 15 years. Lance Leipold was unable to make history again as KU’s head coach.
The question prior to the game was whether Jason Bean would get his Senior Day send-off. He had sustained a head injury against Texas Tech one week ago and was replaced by true freshman Cole Ballard. Bean was considered a game-time decision but wound up not taking any snaps under center.
K-State opened the game with a touchdown, but Devin Neal broke off a big run for a score after both teams booted the ball away once. The junior running back ran for another touchdown in KU’s next drive, but K-State’s Keenan Garber blocked the PAT and returned it for two, making it a 13-9 game.
Brian Borland’s unit almost came up with a turnover on downs, but a holding call on Mello Dotson allowed the Wildcats to put up seven more points of their own. Yet Ballard drove the team down and hit Lawrence Arnold for a touchdown pass with 26 seconds remaining in the half, giving the Jayhawks the lead.
Going into halftime, Kansas football had all the momentum in the world. Mason Fairchild caught a 59-yard pass to open the gates in the third quarter, and Devin Neal ran for his third score of the game two plays later. This is when everything went downhill for the Jayhawks.
With 10:30 left in the third, Will Howard threw an errant pass directly to KU linebacker Rich Miller in stride. It was the easiest pick-6 a player could have. However, it slipped out of his hands and Treshaun Ward ran for a 52-yard gain one play later.
Instead of going up 34-16 and putting the Wildcats down three scores, they found the end zone and converted on the 2-point conversion. The offense in the game came to a halt following a few punts, but wide receiver Trevor Wilson muffed one and gave K-State terrific field position.
They subsequently scored the go-ahead touchdown, which led to Cole Ballard’s second interception. The rest is history. Another loss to the Purple Cats.
You can look at the game’s outcome from multiple perspectives. Is Kansas football in a better spot than it was a couple of years ago? Without a question. But did the special teams unit and poor playcalling ruin what should have been a victory? Absolutely. Both can be true.
The team (and us Jayhawk fans) will be doing a lot of reflecting in these next few days. What seemed to be a dream season is now trending toward another late-season collapse, similar to that of 2022. The Jayhawks conclude their regular season with a road tilt against Cincinnati next weekend as they look to at least finish above .500 in conference play.