LAWRENCE — Jax Dineen’s words in the heat of the moment likely foreshadowed the Kansas State freshman fullback’s message in the aftermath of what became a Sunflower Smackdown.
It was late in the third quarter Saturday, and Dineen, a Lawrence native-turned-Wildcat, stood over his older brother-slash-Kansas sophomore linebacker Jay Dineen. As the elder Dineen clutched his knee and writhed on the ground, Jax, who had fallen into Jay’s legs on the prior play, shouted words of encouragement.
“I heard him say, ‘You’re good, bro. Get up, bro,’ ” Jay Dineen recalled. “He was just kind of worrying about it.”
Jay picked himself up off the turf, even returning to the game after a short absence — “It just more than anything scared me. Now it’s a little sore, but everything’s good,” he said.
After the outcome — a one-sided 38-10 shellacking put on by the No. 22-ranked Wildcats — the two Dineens again crossed paths, sharing a hug and expressing their love for one another.
Now, KU’s Dineen and the rest of the Jayhawks must dig deep for a different kind of resiliency.
The KU defense surrendered 342 yards and five scores on the ground en route to the lopsided outcome in the 117th edition of the Sunflower Showdown. Bullied at the line of scrimmage and dominated by scrambling Wildcat quarterback Skylar Thompson, virtually nothing went as planned for KU in what was its first home sellout since 2009 — an announced crowd of 47,233 witnessed the Jayhawks’ 11th consecutive defeat in the series.
“They brought it today. It was really fun. We could hear them,” Jay Dineen said of the capacity crowd, which featured its fair share of purple but was largely waves of crimson and blue. “They were in it 'til the end with us. Don’t really know what else to say, but very much appreciated.
“We’re going to get better. We’re going to work this one out.”
KU, which entered the contest with 1,096 total yards of offense in its first two games under new offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon, mustered just 241 against the Wildcats, with K-State’s top-ranked Big 12 pass defense frustrating Jayhawk quarterback Carter Stanley to the tune of 115 passing yards and a pair of interceptions on a 13-for-23 performance.
Stanley was sacked four times.
“To be very honest with you, we could play that game over and be a lot more successful in the way we threw the football. We just didn’t,” said KU head coach Les Miles. “It was more what we didn’t do as opposed to what (K-State) did.”
The Jayhawks (3-6, 1-5 Big 12) entered the intermission in a 14-point hole, but truthfully, the deficit could’ve been much larger.
The Wildcats (6-2, 3-2) scored touchdowns with ease on their first two possessions. Stanley, meanwhile, threw a pair of interceptions on drive-opening plays, including one telegraphed and snagged by K-State's Da'Quan Patton near the Jayhawk 46 with 1:20 left in the half. That pick led to Blake Lynch's 39-yard field goal at the whistle, establishing the visitor's 17-3 halftime edge.
K-State rushed 31 times for 176 yards before the break but committed seven penalties for 78 yards in what was the only saving grace for the Jayhawks.
Poor play out of the gate has plagued KU this season, even under Dearmon’s productive watch. The Jayhawks fell into a 14-0 hole two weeks ago in a 50-48 defeat at then-No. 15 Texas, then spotted Texas Tech the first 17 points of last weekend’s eventual 37-34 upset victory for Miles’ crew.
“We’ve gotta start fast and we’ve gotta improve,” Miles said. “... Defense didn’t get a chance (Saturday) because the offense didn’t keep the ball, and the offense didn’t get a chance because the opponent had it the whole day. It was just the wrong view of how the game is supposed to go.”
The Wildcats marched down the field on their first possession of the second half, with Thompson capping the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run to make the margin 24-3. Then, in the fourth quarter, a failed fourth-and-4 attempt by the Jayhawks — Kwamie Lassiter dropped a pass thrown slightly behind him — gave the ball to the Wildcats at the KU 26.
Thompson — who else? — put the game away a handful of plays later, dashing untouched up the gut for a 4-yard touchdown that made the Wildcat lead 31-3 with 12:18 remaining. By the time junior Tyler Burns took his first two carries of the game 18 and 14 yards — the former breaking nearly a half-dozen tackles and the latter finding the end zone — most of the vocal Jayhawk contingent had cleared out of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
“I never so enjoyed an environment, an atmosphere. I can only tell you that our guys truly appreciate those people that were in the stands and rooting for the Jayhawks,” Miles said. “I did not notice a lot of purple. It looked like to me that this was bought by guys from Kansas and guys and gals that wanted the Jayhawks to win. It was a loud stadium, and it was Jayhawk-loud.
“I truly appreciate it. I know our players do. They’re sick right now. They wanted to come and play a great game for you. Another time.”
Backup quarterback Manny Miles added a garbage-time 1-yard touchdown run for KU in the final minute to give the game its final margin.
The Wildcats, who had notched their last two victories in the series by a combined 14 points, earned bowl eligibility despite committing 11 penalties for 113 yards. Thompson was electric, recording 17 carries for 127 yards and three touchdowns and adding a 9-for-16 line for 129 yards through the air.
“He’s a force. He’s a key piece,” Les Miles said of Thompson. “He did a nice job and certainly showed some real skills.”
After a bye week, KU will continue its season with a Nov. 23 contest at Iowa State. Jax Dineen’s Wildcats, meanwhile, will look to continue head coach Chris Klieman’s already smashing debut season, squaring off with Texas on Nov. 9 in Austin.
In that contest, K-State’s freshman fullback will have at least one voice cheering him on from his hometown.
“It’s always fun,” Jay Dineen said, “to see him succeed.”