Kansas State made a game of it once again against Oklahoma, but the return of Skylar Thompson wasn’t enough as the Sooners marched to a 37-31 win today at Bill Snyder Family Stadium which wasn’t over until Oklahoma recovered an onside kick with just over a minute to play.
The win breaks K-State’s hex on the Sooners, and improves Oklahoma’s post-1992 record over the Cats to a gaudy 14-10.
The game turned on one key play: as the fourth quarter began, Thompson hit Landry Weber for what was ruled an 18-yard completion on 4th-and-13, but the catch was overturned on the premise that the ball touched the ground. That is not the rule; the ball was in Weber’s hands the entire catch and never came loose. He retained control througout the catch. After that turnover on downs, Oklahoma moved downfield quickly and scored, effectively icing the game.
The game started with another key play which turned the entire momentum early. K-State moved the ball downfield with impunity on their first possession, converting a gutsy 4th-and-5 from the Oklahoma 40 on the way to penetrating to the Sooner 13. But then Jacardia Wright fumbled right into the hands of Nik Bonitto, who returned the ball 70 yards to the Wildcat 19, and it was up to the K-State defense. The Sooners got to the one-yard line, but a fumbled snap, a false start, and a sack left Oklahoma (4-0, 2-0) with 4th-and-goal from the 23, and they had to settle for a 40-yard Gabe Brkic field goal.
Thompson went back to work, guiding K-State (3-2, 0-2) downfield. Landry Weber had a clutch 25-yard catch-and-run, and three different Wildcats ran for 10 or more yards on single plays. The drive stalled at the two on fourth-and-goal, and Klieman rolled the dice again. Thompson hit Phillip Brooks for a two-yard touchdown, the first touchdown catch by a Wildcat receiver this season, and K-State took a 7-3 lead into the second quarter.
A 12-play 75-yard drive ended with Jeremiah Hall rushing for a four-yard score to regain a 10-7 lead for the Sooners. K-State then ate almost nine minutes off the clock on a 19-play drive, during which Thompson completed an 8-yard pass to Brooks on 4th-and-4 at midfield. But the Wildcats finally faced a fourth down they couldn’t afford to try and convert. Taiten Winkel kicked a 30-yarder to tie the game at 10 with 1:30 to go in the half.
The defense could not stop Oklahoma from getting into field goal range, however. The Sooners never even faced a third down, although the Wildcats were almost saved when Spencer Rattler fumbled on a handoff attempt. The ball harmlessly dribbled along Rattler’s path, however, and he was able to cover it. With 2 seconds left, Brkic converted a 27-yarder to give Oklahoma the 13-10 halftime advantage.
The defense did nothing to stop Oklahoma on the second half’s opening drive, which ended with a 2-yard run by Kennedy Brooks to make it 20-10. For the first time all day, Oklahoma shut down the Wildcat offense, which went three-and-out, but a 60-yard punt by Ty Zentner along with a personal foul on Oklahoma pinned the Sooners at their own ten. Didn’t matter. Rattler hit Marvin Mims for 40, and the Sooners were back in Wildcat real estate. They quickly scored to make it 27-10.
Thompson immediately found Keenan Garber for 54 yards, Vaughn ran for 13, and Thompson hit Vaughn for a 7-yard touchdown pass. Ty Zentner kicked onside and recovered it himself. After review, the play was confirmed, but Lincoln Riley complained loudly enough to get the officials to illegally review the review. It was determined that Zentner had touched the ball twice when he kicked it, and Oklahoma was given the ball at the point of the infraction.
But ball don’t lie. Oklahoma was called for holding. After a 12-yard run by Brooks, Rattler was sacked, then the Sooners were flagged for a false start. Rattler, facing 3rd-and-17, then threw an interception to Julius Brents at the K-State 7.
Thompson hit Vaughn for 6, Brooks for 14, and Weber for 28 to move into Oklahoma territory as the quarter ended, leading to the overturned pass play. Oklahoma moved downfield with ease after that, scoring on a 1-yard pass from Rattler to Hall. During the drive, Reggie Stubblefield was injured; an Oklahoma player hit him in the helmet while he was down, drawing exactly zero flags.
A 33-yard completion to Vaughn, who was picked up and slammed into the ground by Patrick Fields at the end of the play. That added another six yards to the total. Two plays later, Weber was rewarded for his heroic day with a 6-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 34-24. Another onside kick attempt was easily recovered by the Sooners, and Brkic added a 47-yard field goal to pad the score.
Knowles then returned the kickoff for a touchdown, sparking life within the hearts of Wildcat fans. An onside kick was recovered by Oklahoma, but they had called timeout; the second attempt was also recovered by the Sooners. With only a minute and change to go, Rattler was able to kneel out the ballgame.
Thompson was 29-41 for 320 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. His rushing totals were one carry for a loss of nine yards because college football still stupidly considers sacks rushing plays; Thompson did not carry the ball himself a single time today, which was probably for the best.
Vaughn was the team’s leading receiver and rusher, with 10 catches for 104 yards and 15 carries for 51. Joe Ervin added 33 yards, and fullback Ben Sinnott had a clutch 9-yard run which we’d like to see a little more of. Weber had four catches for 65 yards, which should have been 5-78. Brooks had six for 55, Garber had his one catch for 54, and Knowles was Thompson’s clutch outlet guy today with five receptions for 21 yards.
K-State racked up 420 yards of offense, only 100 of it on the ground. The Sooners had 392, 131 on the ground. Rattler was a ridiculous 22-25 for 243 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. Brooks led Oklahoma with 92 yards on 15 carries, while Mims led the way with 71 yards on four catches.
1) Skylar Thompson is back, and is good
It was a great game for the sorely-missed quarterback, who set a career high for completions and had only his second career 300-yard game. The other was last year against Oklahoma, and if there’s one guy who’s been responsible for the Oklahoma/K-State rivalry getting hot the last three years, it’s Thompson.
2) Landry Weber is suddenly an important threat.
Weber caught several clutch passes, including the one that got overturned. More importantly, Weber was getting good yards after catch, which is not something you’d expect from his prior profile. If today marks a sea change in K-State’s passing game, having four receivers who put up decent numbers against the Sooners is a good thing.
3) The defense misses Khalid Duke desperately.
We were overly excited by the defense’s performance in the first quarter and first half, when they allowed Oklahoma one yard and 126 yards respectively. But that 126 started piling up in the second quarter, and after halftime the defense was swiss cheese for the most part. The defense gave up 251 yards in the second half and 24 points, and Oklahoma never punted once the entire game.
They did stand up on a few occasions, so it wasn’t a complete failure. But K-State’s offense could have won this game, especially since the offensive line flat out bullied Oklahoma the entire afternoon.
4) Malik Knowles learned from last week.
Knowles actually caught all but one ball thrown at him today, and wisely let kickoffs go for touchbacks... except the one he ran back for a touchdown. He was also extremely effective in the running game, notching 16 yards on jet sweeps. He’s out of the doghouse.
5) The officials who worked this game need remedial instruction.
It can’t be said enough: while the overturned onside kick was ultimately the correct call, the process by which it was reached was absolutely against the rules of replay review. A coach cannot “challenge” a review. That Riley was allowed to was a crucial error on the part of the officials. They should have caught the double kick the first time around. Had the officials refused Riley’s request, Oklahoma fans would be angry... and we’d be acknowledging that the call was blown. Instead, we’re angry that the rules were broken, and Oklahoma fans think we’re whining about a correct call.
The call ended up being right, but that doesn’t excuse the incompetence of the officials for going through the process incorrectly.
As for the overturned catch... we realize the rules for what is a legal completion have been a confusing mess ever since Megatron. But “if the ball touches the ground it’s incomplete” has never been part of the deal. As we noted, Weber never lost control of the ball. It moved, slightly, but not to the extent one could reasonably claim resulted in a loss of control.
Players of the Game
On offense, this clearly goes to Thompson. The offense is clearly a different beast when he’s under center, and he had an absolutely fabulous game today. On the defensive side of the ball, we’re not giving it to anyone. Again: Oklahoma never punted. The Cats did force them to kick three field goals, but then again the Cats let them get into field goal range those three times.
A week to rest, then a decidedly less-threatening version of Iowa State than the last couple of years comes calling.