LAWRENCE — If nothing else, Saturday’s Sunflower Showdown-turned-beatdown illustrated just how much of a gap still exists between the Kansas and Kansas State football programs.

Viewed through the lens of this specific season, nowhere is that more evident than in one of the sport’s most do-or-die situations.

The now No. 20-ranked Wildcats, who earned a 38-10 victory at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, converted 11 of 17 third-down attempts on the afternoon, including on each of their first five tries and, later, a 6 of 8 success rate in the second half.

KU, meanwhile, converted just 2 of 10 third-down tries against the Wildcats’ top-ranked Big 12 pass defense, and therein lies the biggest in-season gap between the two squads — K-State’s defense now boasts the nation’s second-ranked opponent third-down conversion percentage (25.3), while the Jayhawks rank 129th, or second-to-last, in the same statistic, with foes converting 55 percent of their third-down attempts.

With nine games in the books, the sample size is now more than large enough to label this a sizeable problem for the Jayhawks (3-6, 1-5 Big 12), though asked if he’s seen a common theme with his defense’s third-down woes, head coach Les Miles took an optimistic outlook.

“I certainly hope not, OK," Miles said. "I kind of look at it that way, that in this bye week, we'll do, again, a self-scout and kind of figure out some of the things that we did and didn't do in the last couple weeks well."

KU returns to action Nov. 23 at Iowa State.

“We talk about it every day,” sophomore linebacker Jay Dineen said of the defense’s third-down struggles. “It’s something that we need to put on ourselves just as players. I think it’s a mentality thing. On third down you’ve got to be like, ‘OK, we’re going to get off the field.’ I think we need to play with that a little more, just being able to go out, 'OK, it’s third down, we’re going to get the stop and get our offense back on the field.' ”

Miles argued K-State’s third-down success was a direct result of its most eye-popping statistic of the afternoon — the Wildcats (6-2, 3-2) ran the ball 60 times for 342 yards and were productive enough on first- and second-down plays that in their 11 successful third-down conversions the average distance to the sticks was only 4.5 yards.

“This team that we ran into ran the football and kept all of their third downs into real manageable down and distances,” Miles said. “I think that's one of the reasons that D.J. (Eliot, defensive coordinator) and crew didn't have more success on third downs.”

Senior safety Mike Lee cited multiple factors as contributors to the problem.

“Really everybody just focusing on their job and doing what they have to do on third-down plays,” Lee said. “You know, third down is money downs. We want to get off the field. If we don’t get off the field, they can keep driving and driving and driving. All I can say is we’ve got to keep our eyes in the right spots, stay on our man and tackle the quarterback as soon as he runs out of the pocket.”

K-State quarterback Skylar Thompson, who ran 17 times for 127 yards and three touchdowns, picked up five of the Wildcats' 11 conversions with his legs, taking two to the end zone for scores.

In junior linebacker Kyron Johnson’s eyes, the defense's problems start at practice, where he said teammates need to start being more vocal when they don’t understand a scheme or situation.

“We should probably work on that more and actually stepping up and saying what we have confusion on and stuff,” Johnson said. “I think that was probably really the main key of why we couldn’t pull off third down a lot. ...

“Coming in we actually thought we had it all planned out, but then when it came to game time, they was on it. They caught us on our heels.”

Senior safety Bryce Torneden contended that there’s not a single thread linking the Jayhawks’ week-to-week struggles defending third-down tries. A team captain, Torneden said his message to his fellow Jayhawks is simple entering the bye week and season’s final three games — “Just keep working. That’s all we can do. We can’t just roll over and just kind of let everything happen,” he said.

Despite the outcome, the Lawrence native Torneden at least got the opportunity to play in front of a sellout home crowd for the first time, with the game featuring an announced attendance of 47,233.

“It meant a lot. Honestly, just seeing Memorial Stadium almost full, it was just awesome to see,” Torneden said. “It just sucks that we couldn’t execute and get the job done.”