The 21st century has been painful for the Kansas State Wildcats when it comes to visiting Stillwater. Five losses, by a total of 19 points.
Today, they nearly erased it all, taking a 29-point lead on the Oklahoma State Cowboys. But a furious comeback, the Cowboys’ usual schtick, put the outcome in doubt before the Wildcat defense got a critical stop and the offense was finally able to run out the clock to secure a 45-40 victory.
Oklahoma State got fired up over the final 20 minutes, but the final stats are very deceptive. At that 20-minute mark, Oklahoma State only had 244 yards of total offense... which was less than either Thompson or Pringle had individually.
That final 20 minutes was a different story, as Mason Rudolph threw for 297 of his 425 yards, and two of his three touchdowns, during the comeback attempt. But that yardage wasn’t on the players so much, as the defensive scheme was to just let Oklahoma State burn the clock themselves.
Luckily for the Cats, it worked.
Skylar Thompson got K-State on the board first with a five-yard touchdown run, and also hit Byron Pringle for three huge touchdown passes of 47, 46, and 60 yards. In addition, Pringle housed an 89-yard kickoff return, and Alex Barnes added a 39-yard touchdown run. With 20 minutes left, K-State led 42-13.
Thompson finished with 204 yards on 10-13 passing, with three touchdowns and no interceptions, but one lost fumble and an injury all wrapped up in one play. He ran the ball 17 times for 93 yards, but at one point had eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Barnes had 22 carries for 86 yards, the final eight or so being for nearly nothing, and scored once.
Pringle? Oh, all he did was catch four passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns, and added 114 yards in kick returns, for a total of 280 all-purpose yards.
K-State limited the Cowboy run game to 85 yards, which wasn’t enough to prevent a 510-yard day for Oklahoma State. K-State ended up with 421 yards of offense.
So, what did we learn?
1. Skylar Thompson IS A MAN.
Thompson came into his own today. He’d already shown some stones against Texas Tech, but today he was just phenomenal. He was poised, he didn’t make a bad throw that I can recall, and his strikes to Pringle were absolutely beautiful.
Of course, then he got hurt, and Hunter Hall almost had to finish the game, although Thompson was sent out to hand the ball off twice and kneel to end it.
2. Byron Pringle IS A MAN.
With D.J. Reed out, it fell to Pringle to be the playmaker today. He did it and then some. On the touchdown passes, Pringle managed to get himself wide open. No, really: there wasn’t a black jersey within miles. On an initial view of the game, with the cameras focused on the line of scrimmage until Thompson let go, we have no idea about the routes. But it’s pretty easy to conclude Pringle broke some ankles this afternoon.
And then there was the kickoff return, which was just glorious.
3. Everyone on the defense IS A MAN.
Seriously, everyone balled out today. There wasn’t a guy on defense who didn’t get a positive name-check, and there were very few errors on the part of the guys in uniform. (Don’t let the numbers fool you; most of Oklahoma State’s damage was done after it was already a four-score game with under 10 minutes to play.)
Shelley got beat a couple of times, but they weren’t bad beats; otherwise, he was spectacular. Adams was great. Jayd Kirby and Trent Tanking, who picked off the 2-point conversion attempt which would have brought Oklahoma State within three with four minutes to go, were great. The defensive line clowned Rudolph, sacking him four times and repeatedly forcing him to make terrible throws.
And then the defense held Oklahoma State to no yards on four plays with two minutes to go, saving the game.
4. Special shout-out to A.J. Parker.
Forced into action as a primary corner with the absence of Reed, Parker took a bit to get acclimated. By a bit, we mean “one Cowboy touchdown drive”. After that, Parker performed very well indeed, and deserves a lot of credit for helping contain Rudolph. He wasn’t perfect, but for a freshman making his first full-time start, he was pretty awesome. Hats off.
5. WE’RE GOING TO A BOWL GAME.
It’s not going to be a great one, but it’s better than none at all. And as we all know, whether they win or lose is immaterial to the goals of the coaching staff; today’s win guarantees another month of practice, and likely with Thompson taking the QB1 snaps.
How ‘bout DAT, EMAW?
BONUS 6. This game was almost lost in the press box.
Thompson gets hurt on a play which should have been a handoff because you’re trying to get cute? Hunter Hall isn’t prepared to actually take snaps at quarterback in a game where Jesse Ertz and Alex Delton didn’t even make the trip? Thompson, hurt, is sent back out to hand the ball off on the final drive because you don’t want Hall doing it?
That’s all on you, coaches. Every last bit of it.
And while we have little objection to the defensive tactic of just letting Oklahoma State run the clock out themselves when starting with a 29-point lead, that tactic could have waited until there were 10 minutes left instead of 20. By easing off and letting the Cowboys ride, the defensive staff helped put Oklahoma State in position to put the game in doubt.
It was a minor failure, but still needs to be noted.
So. A very exciting game, with a positive result. We can only hope Thompson isn’t hurt badly, and head into Farmageddon knowing it’s not necessarily a must-win game. That’s good, because Iowa State isn’t the Iowa State we’re used to.