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Wait, WHAT? Kansas State 38, Oklahoma 35

You were prepared for a boring slaughter today, and you got this instead.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to today, teams trailing by 21 points against AP Top-5 teams were 1-545 since 2004.

They’re 2-545 now. Jahron McPherson’s interception of Spencer Rattler with only 34 seconds left sealed an improbable 21-point comeback victory for Kansas State Wildcats, who prevailed 38-35 over Oklahoma Sooners this afternoon at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, their second straight win over the Sooners.

K-State claimed their first and final lead of the day on a 50-yard Blake Lynch field goal with 4:32 to play. The beleaguered defense held once, and the offense was able to run the clock down to 0:49 before giving Oklahoma one last chance.

With the win, Chris Klieman moves to 2-0 against Oklahoma, meaning it’ll be at least 2023 before the Sooners can claim superiority over him. Meanwhile, Lincoln Riley has now lost four regular season games as a head coach, exactly half of them to the Wildcats.

K-State was missing eight players from the two-deep at kickoff: running back Harry Trotter, defensive lineman Eli Huggins, H-back Nick Lenners, offensive lineman Logan Long, and defensive backs Kiondre Thomas, Lance Robinson, Daniel Green, and Ryan Henington. Those four missing pass defenders would be the ultimate story of the game... but not the way you think.

Oklahoma’s first drive was cut short when Ekow Boye-Doe, who wasn’t even on the two-deep two weeks ago, made a great tackle of Spencer Rattler to save a first down. On the next play, Jaylen Pickle got a hand on Rattler’s pass attempt, and Elijah Sullivan snagged the floater for the game’s first turnover.

K-State, aside from a decent touch by Deuce Vaughn, couldn’t get anything going. Oklahoma could, however, aided by two bonehead plays by Wyatt Hubert — being drawn offside, and then two plays later hitting Rattler late after a 13-yard-completion, giving Oklahoma a total of 33 yards of progress. Rattler later connected with Marvin Mims for an 11-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring.

K-State again couldn’t move the ball, and should have had Oklahoma pinned deep after an OU blocker pushed a Wildcat into Marvin Mims as he was attempting a fair catch, but somehow K-State was called for illegal touching. Oklahoma again threw downfield at will, mostly; Elijah Sullivan had great coverage on Charleston Rambo on one play, almost leading to a Jahron McPherson interception, but that play didn’t actually happen because Oklahoma had an ineligible man downfield. Another big gain for the Sooners was wiped out by the same penalty a few plays later, saving K-State from a face mask penalty on Ross Elder. Rattler finished the drive just after the quarter ended by tossing another touchdown pass, a 32-yard strike to Drake Stoops. Yes, that Drake Stoops.

After again failing to achieve a first down on their own steam, the Wildcats caught another break early in Oklahoma’s next possession. Justin Gardner made a brilliant interception on a pass intended for Mims, giving the Cats another shot near midfield. This time, the Cats actually moved on offense. Thompson hit Sammy Wheeler for a 17-yard gain then, after Oklahoma totally sniffed out a reverse, Thompson had all day to find a wide-open Malik Knowles deep. But the pass was a little late, a little low and a little behind Knowles, and he wasn’t able to haul it in. It should have been six. Thompson redeemed himself immediately, though: he dropped a 39-yard dime on Chabastin Taylor for a touchdown.

The Sooners got it right back, though, as Rattler’s methodical carving of the secondary started to have an impact on the run defense. Another lob to Mims, this one from nine yards out with 44 seconds left, gave Oklahoma a 21-7 lead at the half.

The first half opened slowly; K-State did nothing on offense, but held firm on defense and forced a turnover on downs near midfield. But Thompson ate a sack on first down, and K-State ended up going three-and-out.

The Sooners scored again, a 21-yard toss to Jeremiah Hall, but on the next play from scrimmage Vaughn caught a pass in the flat and raced 77 yards, being dragged down at the one. Thompson scored on a sneak two plays later to make it 28-14.

Rattler again responded, although he finally threw an incomplete pass after 41:14 of perfection. A 51-yard pass to a wide-open Stoops set up the fifth touchdown of the day for Oklahoma, a 5-yard run by Seth McGowan. But K-State again fired right back, Thompson hitting a wide-open Keyon Mozee for 78 yards. Again, he was knocked out just short of the goal line; again, Thompson snuck it in.

Two plays later, McPherson walloped McGowan on an edge run and forced a fumble, recovered by Drew Wiley at the Sooner 38. Unfortunately, Justin Hughes was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play, pushing the Cats back to the Wildcat 47. Thompson again hooked up with Vaughn, who broke approximately 700 tackles before breaking free for a 35-yard gain. A few rushes later and Thompson had his third touchdown run of the afternoon, bringing K-State to within a touchdown at 35-28.

And then the defense forced a punt.

And AJ Parker blocked it.

And Nick Allen took it do the Sooner 28.

And then Deuce scored on a 38-yard run to tie the game.

And then Bronson Massie devoured Rattler on 3rd-and-10, dropping him at the Oklahoma 26 and forcing a punt. Which wasn’t great, and K-State took over in a tied game at their own 39 with 6:32 to play. A touchdown pass to Moore was called back because he was an ineligible reciever, the mistake being made by the wide receivers not going in motion. The Cats settled for Lynch, who split the uprights and atoned for two weeks ago.

The defense almost gave up a huge conversion on the next series, but the teams traded holding penalties to reset at 3rd-and-8 at the Sooner 28. Hubert’s holding penalty wiped out a sack by Duke which would have pinned Oklahoma at their own 11, facing 4th-and-27. The defense did hold on third down in the end, and K-State took over at their own 27 with 2:49 to go. They had to punt with a minute left, but McPherson ended it.

Thompson, after a horrid first half, somehow ended up with a better passer rating than Rattler, 197.4 to 170.0. Thompson went 18-25 for a career-high 334 yards — amazingly his first-ever 300-yard passing day — with one touchdown and no interceptions. He also ran for three touchdowns on only 10 yards rushing. Rattler had an amazing 40 minutes before achieving mortality; not one of his first 27 passes hit the ground, although two of them were caught by Wildcats. After that, he was only 2-14. He finished 30-41 for 385 with four touchdowns and three picks.

The Wildcat defense prevented any single member of the Sooner offense from collecting a Benjamin. Stoops led the Sooner receivers with 93 yards on 3 catches, while McGowan was held to 78 yards on 13 carries. For K-State the leading receiver was the Deuce, with 129 yards on 4 catches. He was also the leading rusher, albeit with only 45 yards on 8 carries. The rest of the team combined for only 21 yards on 18 attempts. Oklahoma outgained the Cats 517-400, 387-334 in the air and 130-66 on the ground. However, it’s worth noting that the Sooners ran 76 plays to the 51 run by K-State; the Wildcats averaged 7.84 yards per play to Oklahoma’s 6.80.

Our stars of the game: Vaughn, obviously, on offense, while we’re giving the defensive nod to Khalid Duke.

So, uh, what did we learn?

1) You can’t stop the other team from scoring without a secondary.

This is, of course, obvious. But a casual viewer who isn’t absorbed in Xs and Os couldn’t help but notice what having no secondary does to the run defense. K-State stopped the run exceptionally well in the first quarter, and then not so much later in the game. Because the secondary needed so much help, the run defense was weakened.

That said... man, they sacked up in the fourth quarter. Everyone on defense was incredible over the final 20 minutes or so. The missing members of the seconday might have to worry about their positions on the depth chart, because McPherson, Boye-Doe, and Gilbert all put in epic performances.

2) Freshmen are awesome.

Vaughn and Mozee electrified the offense in the final 20 minutes of the game. What could have been a dull and painful afternoon turned into an absolute barrel of fun.

3) Khalid Duke is K-State’s best defensive lineman right now.

Duke was everywhere today, and after making some adjustments mid-game became Rattler’s worst nightmare, and his havoc enabled Hubert and Massie to step up and return to their usual form, too. His absence against Arkansas State has to now be counted as a major contributing factor to that loss.

4) Some of K-State’s defensive backs have to be worried about their positions on the depth chart now.

There was basically no way this secondary should have been able to deal with Rattler. And for 40 minutes, they didn’t. Then suddenly, they did. When it mattered, the secondary locked Rattler down, concluding with McPherson’s game-winning interception. It was an incredible feat of mid-game education. Hats off.

5) This team isn’t going to quit.

They were down 21. They won. You really can’t spell it out any more clearly than that. Now we’ll have to see how that transfers to Texas Tech next Saturday.