Farmageddon: Kansas State vs. Iowa State football rivalry has blossomed in recent years

Arne Green
Topeka Capital-Journal

MANHATTAN — "Farmageddon."

That moniker has been around since 2009, when Kansas State and Iowa State played the first of two neutral-site football games at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium.

And it stuck.

Yes, it's a lighthearted nod to the two states' agricultural roots and a pair of teams that have met on the football field every year since 1917. They will clash again for the 105th time at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

And thanks to a recent stretch of tightly-contested games, it has grown into a legitimate rivalry.

"I think No. 2 behind KU," said Kansas State senior wide receiver Landry Weber. "I think it's a big game, and one we get excited for as a K-State fan. It's definitely one that you want to win."

Weber should know. His father, Stan, a Wildcat quarterback in the early 1980s, has been a radio analyst on the K-State Sports Network since 1987 — 11 years before Landry was born — and older brother, Stanton, played wide receiver for the team from 2011-15 and later served as a coach.

As a player, Landry said, he is less wrapped up in the rivalry, simply because he is focused on preparing for the game itself. "But I do have the unique perspective of being a fan, and that kind of adds extra motivation for me," he added.

Iowa State running back Breece Hall (28) outruns Kansas State safety Jahron McPherson (31) during last year's Farmageddon game at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.

The Sunflower Showdown with Kansas naturally remains No. 1 on the list of rivals, what with the Governor's Cup and state bragging rights on the line. But the Iowa State game has plenty to offer as well.

"For me, when I was growing up, I never even knew really that Kansas State and Iowa State was as big of a rivalry as it is," K-State senior center Noah Johnson said. "But since I joined the program, I think the cool thing about it is we have two very similar programs that seem to be built kind of on the same values and the same cultures of under-recruited, maybe undervalued guys who come in and put in the work, and it shows on Saturday.

"And then you've got two programs in the Midwest, same type of ethos, same type of communities, and it's really cool. I don't know how many other rivalries are based around farming, but that's pretty cool."

Kansas State actually holds an 11-2 edge in the last 13 games with the Cyclones, but Iowa State has won two of the past three, including an uncharacteristic 45-0 blowout last year in Ames. Before that, between 2008 and 2018, 10 of the 11 meetings were decided by single digits, and two years ago in Manhattan, the Wildcats came from behind to win 27-17.

K-State coach Chris Klieman, an Iowa native, is not surprised that the games between the teams have been so close over the years.

More:How Iowa State's defensive success has impacted Kansas State — on both sides of the ball

"They're two teams that know each other really well, and we spend an awful lot of time in the offseason self-scouting them," he said. "They're a good enough staff, they probably self-scout a little bit of everybody, but I think when teams know each other pretty well and have playmakers that make plays, you get competitive games.”

The rivalry also is built on mutual respect. Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said on many occasions that he tried to model his program after that of legendary K-State coach Bill Snyder, who retired at the end of the 2018 season.

"You talk about a culture program, they're the best in the country," Campbell said prior to the 2017 game in Manhattan. "I think what coach Snyder has done and what he's been able to do there for the amount of time that he's done it, the ability to sustain success in this profession is really hard.

"Here's a guy that came to Kansas State and built a program, and he sustained that success."

K-State won that 2017 battle, 20-19, when then-freshman quarterback Skylar Thompson threw a touchdown pass to Isaiah Zuber on the last play of the game.

"My first game I played against them was probably one of my favorite games here at K-State," said Thompson, now a sixth-year senior. "Over the years, you know it's going to be a close game, you know it's going to be a very physical game.

"I feel like we're very similar programs in the way we do things — fan bases, everything, university-wise — I feel like we're very congruent to one another."

Thompson missed the last seven games of 2020, including the blowout loss to Iowa State, after suffering a season-ending injury. But he expressed his admiration for two Cyclone players in particular.

"I went to the Manning Passing Academy this summer and got to be really good friends with (quarterback) Brock Purdy," Thompson said. "We spent a lot of time together in the airport and traveling together and just sharing those memories between each other and hearing his perspective of things and that kind of stuff was really enjoyable. We got to be really good friends and stay in contact still, so I know he is a good competitor too, and (running back) Breece Hall, all those guys.

"Breece reached out to me after the game last year and checked in on me and asked me how my injury was going, that type of stuff. They're good people and a good program, and we understand that it's going to be a very hard-fought football game."

Last year's Iowa State blowout was an anomaly. The K-State roster had been ravaged by COVID-19 and the Wildcats had a true freshman at quarterback in Will Howard.

Still, while they're motivated by that loss, the Wildcats are not obsessed with it, according to Johnson.

"It is hard not to, the way they put it on us last year," he said. "But you can’t live in the past, and this is a big game for us this week. They're a great team."

Both teams come into Saturday's game at 3-2, with K-State 0-2 in the Big 12 after back-to-back losses to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Iowa State is 1-1 in the league, losing 31-29 to Baylor before trampling Kansas, 59-7, two weeks ago.

"It's a 6:30 p.m. night game between two really good teams who both need a win at this point in time," Johnson said. "Man, what more could you ask for?"

Thompson agreed wholeheartedly.

"There's so many similarities between our programs and universities — the 'Farmageddon' and all that stuff," he said. "We take some pride in winning this game, and I know our fan base does, and it means a lot to us."