October 31, 2008

Rivals ready to renew sunflower series

Two rivals with Big 12 North aspirations still within reach but mired in recent struggles meet Saturday when Kansas State visits Kansas for the 106th Sunflower Showdown in Lawrence. The nation's 13th longest-running rivalry enters the nationally televised 11:40 a.m. kickoff with an interesting twist as the teams battle after coming off back-to-back losses for the first time since 2001. Something has to give, as one team will claim the coveted Governor's Trophy while the loser faces a tough climb with three games to go.

The Wildcats, who will try to avoid three straight losses in the series for the first time in 18 years, figure they are long overdue to return the Trophy to Manhattan, where it resided for 11 straight years between 1993 and 2003.

"It's time to get it back," K-State wide receiver Aubrey Quarles said. "We've got to get it back to K-State."

It could prove difficult.

Kansas has won 10 of its last 12 against North teams at home dating back to nearly four years ago, when Colorado left with a 30-21 win. The Jayhawks, who come off a 63-14 loss at home to No. 8 Texas Tech last weekend, have avoided blowout losses against the North in Lawrence. K-State was the last division team to win there by at least 20 points with a historic 64-0 pounding in 2002, the Jayhawks' first season under Mark Mangino.

But K-State, 4-4 overall and 1-3 in the Big 12, is a vastly different squad in giving up 31.4 points (98th nationally) and 441.6 yards (109th). The Wildcats come off a 58-35 loss to No. 4 Oklahoma that dropped third-year coach Ron Prince to 16-17 overall and 8-12 in league games.

Prince is 3-8 against the North and seeks his second win in six tries against division foes on the road.

"We need to win this for all the right reasons but a lot of good things would happen to us if we win this game and that's our approach," Prince said. "For us to be able to go on the road and play the kind of football all at one time, which we have shown in quarters here and there, it would be very important."

Already, Kansas, 5-3 and 2-2, has proven to be a different team than the Orange Bowl champions that finished 12-1, too.

"They had a good season last year but we're going to treat them like we do every year and try to win," K-State quarterback Josh Freeman said. "I wouldn't say there's anything extra because they had success last year. Regardless of how they finished out last year it'd be the same."

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