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MANHATTAN — With Missouri out of the picture, first-year Kansas coach Charlie Weis is talking up the rivalry against Kansas State.
“When I got here it was always ‘Kansas-Missouri,’ ” Weis said. “At Kansas State it’s, ‘Let’s go beat Kansas.’ I think Kansas has to focus on having that same fire and intensity toward the in-state rival that K-State does, and that’s the direction we’re headed.”
Wildcats coach Bill Snyder says he hasn’t heard Weis’ comments, but he always has sensed the importance both teams place on the Sunflower Showdown series that resumes at 11:05 a.m. Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
“I don’t remember that it ever wasn’t a viable game for the University of Kansas, but I’m not as close to it as Charlie is,” Snyder said. “He’s apparently done some research in that regard. I always thought it meant a great deal to them, but I’m pretty isolated here — I don’t know much about the outside world. I don’t know how the KU-MU competition relates to K-State.”
Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein is a Colorado native but five years at K-State has impressed upon him the importance of the game to his native Kansas teammates.
“There is definitely a level of importance,” Klein said. “I have been around here long enough, too, that I feel like I understand it, and you do not have to explain it to me anymore. It really is special.
“Being from Colorado, there are a lot of mixed loyalties with professional teams. Here in Kansas it is a little different — you are either a K-State fan or a KU fan, and everybody likes the Chiefs, so it really is one or the other. It is pretty special to be a part of.”
Snyder said the KU game is important for many reasons, most notably because it is the next game.
“Every game means everything, all of them,” he said. “This is significant because you have a lot of youngsters who are from the state and they talk about bragging rights and you have to go home in the summertime and be there with the same youngsters who play for the University of Kansas. It’s true for both sides so they’re all highly motivated.
“You get 12 games a season, maybe 13. That’s 12 times for a competitive young guy to really be competitive. That’s 12 out of 365 (days) and that’s it. 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 you play?”
The No. 7 Wildcats (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) have won three in a row over the Jayhawks (1-3, 0-1) and 15 of the past 19 games. They won the last two years in Lawrence by a combined score of 118-28, a factor in Turner Gill’s brief two-year stint as KU’s coach.
“I wouldn’t downplay the fact that we've fared well against them because all of those games are important and significant,” Snyder said. “If you were to lose half of those ballgames, there’s a great deal of concern, and it becomes significant for a different reason. That’s true no matter who you play.
“I don’t think we’ve ever gone into a game feeling that it wasn’t the most important game we’ve played and the opponent was a very significant opponent.”
The Jayhawks, though, do hold special significance.
“It is an important game,” Klein said. “You have to live with it for a whole year. You either have a Governor’s Cup in your trophy case for a year or you don’t. It is good to have it.”