Opinion: Sunflower rivalry finally arrives
Some predicted it. Others expected it. And still a few were completely shocked by it.
But no matter what went on before the game, its outcome could not be disputed.
The University of Kansas had finally beaten K-State. It said so in big, bold letters on the Memorial Stadium scoreboard.
KU 31 K-State 28
The reasons for KU's upset victory could fill 10 of these columns, so I won't go into detail about them.
Basically, all that needs to be said is that the Jayhawks finally stepped up to the plate.
It was a game many feel KU should've won, and had they blown it, the repercussions would've lasted for years. In fact, had KU blown its lead and lost, Kansas legislators might have passed a bill demanding that the Sunflower Showdown never be referred to as such again.
Although Kansas seemed to be in control for most of the contest, the wheels nearly fell off when K-State took the lead on an 86-yard Dylan Meier touchdown pass in the second half.
Memorial Stadium went silent, and it looked as if the Jayhawks' dreams of ending the misery had vanished.
But KU coach Mark Mangino inserted back up quarterback Jason Swanson into the game, and for the first time in many years, Memorial Stadium produced some magic.
On a key play late in the game, Swanson dropped back and heaved a pass to the end zone. Wide receiver Mark Simmons was on the receiving end of that pass, and in front of more than 50,000 fans, Simmons made one of the best catches in Memorial Stadium history.
In fact, a friend of mine who works in the KU events and facilities office stood just 20 feet away as Simmons hauled in the pass with one hand.
Later, as he tried to clear frantic fans from the field, my friend told me it was the greatest catch he'd ever seen live.
It was better than that.
Not only did the grab result in a touchdown that ultimately saved the day for the Jayhawks, but it also gave this rivalry a shot in the arm.
As I write this column, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are preparing for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. Pedro Martinez against the Yankees. A-Rod versus the Red Sox.
Now that's a rivalry.
Outscoring an opponent 106-6 in two seasons, as the Wildcats had done to the Jayhawks in the two games prior to Saturday night's game, is just flat out embarrassing --or both teams.
K-State, a team that against all odds climbed its way into national prominence, doesn't need teams like the KU of old on its schedule. They already have plenty of patsies on the non-conference slate.
What they need are teams that will give them a challenge. Colorado, Texas Tech, Texas A&M. Teams like that. Not another I-AA clone that just happens to wear crimson and blue.
And I think it's obvious why KU should be embarrassed by such a stat.
So for the next year, KU fans will have bragging rights over the Wildcats. No more "wait 'til football season." No more need for "wait 'til basketball season."
It's safe to say that both schools will be anxiously awaiting next year's game on the gridiron, and maybe from here on out this rivalry will be worthy of being called one.
Go Red Sox!
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