MANHATTAN, Kan. — Charlie Weis wanted to give his team a lesson in the Sunflower Showdown ahead of his first game against Kansas State, so the new Kansas coach figured he'd better bone up on it himself.
"I had to go back and find out all about the Governor's Cup," Weis said this week, "see how this has all gone, and read about how it used to be the Governor's Trophy."
He read about the recent history, too.
While Kansas owns a decisive advantage in a series that stretches to 1902, the Wildcats have dominated it for more than two decades, ever since the arrival of Bill Snyder in Manhattan prior to the 1989 season. There was a stretch of 11 straight victories, and currently three in a row.
"Any time you play an in-state rival, there's something to play for, and the players have to understand there's something to play for," Weis said. "Since Coach Snyder has gotten to K-State, things have gone big-time their way. He's 16-4 in the series himself."
Most people don't figure the outcome Saturday will be much different.
The seventh-ranked Wildcats (4-0) are rolling after beating Oklahoma on the road two weeks ago, while the Jayhawks (1-3) have blown two fourth-quarter leads this season.
Both teams were off last week.
Kansas State is led by a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Collin Klein, a defense that has gotten better with age, a steady ground game and evolving passing attack.
The Jayhawks' only victory came against lower-division South Dakota State.
So, yes, Weis knows the deck is stacked against him.
"Starting with the head coach, that might be their biggest advantage. Absolutely," he said this week. "Even with all that being said, OK, you still play the game. Not to be sarcastic, I'm just stating the facts. This is who they are. So what you do as a head coach, and this trickles down to the other roles I play, what you then do is say, 'What are we going to do about it.'
"You can't just say, 'Let's go in there and keep it close. Let's keep it close for the fan base,'" Weis added. "I'd rather lose by a hundred, trying to win."
Some years, it looked like Kansas State would win by 100.
Three straight during Snyder's first tenure, the Wildcats piled up at least 50 points against the woebegone Jayhawks. The following year, they merely won 40-6, before a 64-0 win in 2002 that remains the most lopsided game in the history of the series.
Even the years Kansas has been good have been difficult against the neighbors to the west. The Jayhawks were 7-0 and ranked No. 6 when they took the familiar trip down Interstate 70 in 1995, only for the 14th-ranked Wildcats to pin a 41-7 victory on them.
Kansas finally broke through under former coach Mark Mangino, beating the Wildcats in 2004 and then rattling off three straight once Snyder stepped away for a brief retirement.
But things have gotten back to usual ever since the silver-haired fox returned. Snyder beat Kansas in his first year back, one of only six wins by the Wildcats that season, and has shepherded his team to victories the past two seasons by a combined score of 118-28.
"Every game means everything," Snyder said. "This is significant because you've got a lot of youngsters who are from the state, and they talk about bragging rights, etcetera, got to go home in the summer time with the same youngsters who play for Kansas, and it's true for both sides.
"They're all highly motivated," he said. "You get 12 games a season, maybe 13. That's 12 times for a competitive young guy to really be competitive, and that's 12 out of 365 (days). That's it. There isn't any more. How could you pass up the opportunity to do what you love to do and be as competitive as you love to be in any game that you play? I think they all feel that."
The importance Kansas State places on the rivalry is evident the moment you walk into the football complex, where the Governor's Cup sits in a case in the middle of the room. The rest of the program's hardware, from Big 12 titles to bowl games, is in a separate trophy case.
Kansas hasn't looked at the Wildcats the same way, at least not historically. Sure, it's a game that the Jayhawks always want to win, but their bitter rival has always been Missouri.
Now, with the Tigers off to the SEC, the Sunflower Showdown is the biggest game in town.
"We always felt like it was more important to them, and when you are going into a fight and somebody feels like it is more important to them, that shows," said Kansas wide receiver Daymond, a Texas native who has learned to appreciate the rivalry. "Going into this year, it's mutual.
"You're our rival and we're your rival, so let's get it on."
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