Courtesy of K-State Athletics
LAWRENCE, Kansas – Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn rushed for a career-high 162 yards and 3 touchdowns, Skylar Thompson passed for 244 yards and one score, and the Wildcats continued their domination over Kansas in a 35-10 victory to gain bowl eligibility Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence.
“This is big time,” Vaughn said. “We control our own destiny. We have three games left before we get into that bowl game but to be able to clinch that is big time for our program.”
Vaughn had 69 rushing yards and 1 touchdown before he took a handoff and raced down the sideline 80 yards for the longest rush of his career just 15 seconds into the third quarter. He finished with 11 carries and averaged 14.7 yards per rushing attempt, the third highest average in school history. He had runs of 29, 10, 19 and 15 yards over the first two quarters, as the Wildcats raced out to a 21-3 lead at halftime.
The Wildcats scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions and the game was never in doubt.
“Excited for our team and excited for K-State nation,” K-State head coach Chris Klieman said. “This one means a lot to our state and a ton to the almost 60 kids on our team from the state of Kansas. I couldn’t be any happier with how our guy started the first half and the second half.”
The 5-foot-6, 173-pound Vaughn finished with 232 total yards — he also had 6 catches for 70 yards — and his rushing total was the most since Alex Barnes had 184 yards at Iowa State in 2018. Vaughn’s previous high for rushing was 127 yards earlier in the season against Nevada.
Vaughn gained 200 total yards before the Jayhawks took their first snap of the second half. He entered the day ranked third in the nation in career all-purpose yards at 126.44 per game and ranked second in the nation among running backs with 785 receiving yards since 2020.
“As an offense, we were clicking really well,” Vaughn said. “We came to the sideline and said, ‘We can do a lot against these guys.’ It’s one of those things where you’re running and it’s like you’re in autopilot. That’s what today was like. It was a really good feeling.”
K-State improved to 6-3 overall and 3-3 in the Big 12 Conference by winning its third straight game, and its 13th straight over the Jayhawks. It marks the longest winning streak by either team in series that featured its 119th all-time meeting Saturday.
“Obviously, it wasn’t perfect, but you play in a rivalry game and win it as many times as K-State has there’s some anxiety to it,” Klieman said, “and our guys had great focus.”
Thompson commanded an offense that rolled to 499 total yards while he continued to extend the best stretch of his career. Thompson completed 19 of 24 passes for 244 yards and 1 touchdown, including a 68-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Malik Knowles for the Wildcats’ second touchdown of the first quarter.
“We started off fast,” said Knowles, who had 3 catches for 94 yards and 1 touchdown. “In a few games, we started off slow. We came out firing on all cylinders.”
Thompson earned the 22nd win of his career, tying Michael Bishop, Ell Roberson and Collin Klein for most wins by a K-State starting quarterback since 1990.
“My clock is ticking,” Thompson said. “Every game is an opportunity to play and have fun. Having that mindset has allowed me to play free. I’ve been playing really good football. There’s still plays that I missed that frustrate me. My expectation is to be perfect.”
He had plenty of time to throw and expertly identified open receivers with ease, connecting with 11 pass catchers and averaging 12.8 yards per completion. A scary moment arrived when linebacker Gavin Potter levied a late hit on Thompson as he scrambled out of bounds inside the red zone along the K-State sideline with 11:52 left in the game. Thompson remained on the ground for several seconds before returning to the huddle. The penalty gave the Wildcats the ball at the 3.
Just two plays later, K-State delivered the knockout blow as Vaughn rolled head over heels into the end zone from one yard out for a 35-10 advantage.
K-State finished with 257 passing yards and 242 rushing yards for its most balanced offensive effort this season.
“It’s easy to do when you have Skylar Thompson, one of the best quarterbacks in the country, our running back stable, and all of the weapons we have on the outside,” center Noah Johnson said. “We were balanced.”
Meanwhile, the Sunflower Showdown couldn’t be much more lopsided.
Since 1993, K-State has posted a 25-4 record in the series, including an 12-3 mark in Lawrence. Over the stretch, K-State has outscored KU 1,095 points to 433. K-State has scored 129 touchdowns and Kansas has scored 50. K-State has also outgained Kansas 11,894 yards to 8,235 in those games.
During seven straight wins in Lawrence, K-State has outscored Kansas 302 to 92.
Kansas dropped to 1-8 and 0-6 and has been outscored 270-64 against Big 12 foes with remaining games at Texas, at TCU and at home against West Virginia.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s victory kept Klieman perfect in the in-state rivalry after previous wins of 38-10 and 55-14, and the Wildcats will be playing in a bowl game for the second time in three seasons, and for the 23rd time in history.
The Wildcats appear to be hitting stride at just the right time.
“We’re 6-3, we’re bowl eligible, we’ve won three games in a row,” Klieman said. “It tells you an awful lot about the character and resolve of our guys when we started off the way we started off in conference. There was always a continued belief in that locker room.”