Everything went #22 Kansas State’s way this afternoon as Will Howard tied a school record with four touchdown passes, Deuce Vaughn ran for 158 yards, and the Wildcat defense utterly dominated #9 Oklahoma State in a 48-0 win at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
The win, which confirmed bowl eligibility for the Wildcats, was K-State’s largest margin of victory against a top ten team in school history, and the worst loss of Mike Gundy’s career as a head coach. It was the first 40+ point shutout win over a top ten team by any FBS team since California beat Syracuse 43-0 in 1968. We have no idea whether a top ten team prior to that lost a shutout by more than 48 points yet.
Update: we know know: It is the largest shutout win by a non-top-ten team over a top-ten team in history, and the largest shutout win over a top ten team since #1 Notre Dame beat #10 USC 51-0 in 1966.
K-State (6-2, 4-1) got on the board first, with Will Howard lofting a 38-yard touchdown pass to Kade Warner on 4th-and-10. Despite a couple of ridiculous circus catches by Cowboy receivers, their drive stalled and the Wildcat defense forced a turnover on downs at their own 38. Two plays later, the offensive line parted the Red Sea for Deuce Vaughn and he outran Oklahoma State (6-2, 3-2) for 62 yards and a 14-0 lead.
The Wildcats had Oklahoma State in a third-down situation inside the 20, but were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on the bench for being in the referee’s way, giving the Cowboys a first down. The defense was able to hold again, however, with Austin Moore blowing up Jaden Nixon at the line on 3rd-and-1 to force a punt from midfield. The Cowboys downed it deep, giving K-State a 96-yard field to contend with.
They came up inches short of a first down, on a terrible spot which was upheld on review despite even the TV crew pointing out exactly where the ball should have been. Ty Zentner, uncharacteristically, only managed a 34-yard punt and the Cowboys took over again in Wildcat territory. Sanders took a shot, as one does, and completed a pass to Brennan Presley — but Austin Moore punched the ball loose and Brendan Mott recovered.
The offense couldn’t move, though, and Zentner had to punt again. This time, he jacked it 51 yards. After a technically-incorrect pass interference call on Julius Brents (it was holding) gave the Cowboys one first down, the defense held again with Josh Hayes blowing up John Paul Richardson for a seven yard loss on a third down shovel pass to force a punt.
Pinned inside the 20 again, Howard got K-State out in a hurry, lobbing a 28-yard floater to a wide-open Malik Knowles. Another target to Knowles resulted in a pass interference call, and then Howard lofted another floater to Phillip Brooks from the 31; Brooks landed in the end zone and the Cats landed on a 21-0 lead.
Two plays later, Brents picked off a badly-thrown deep ball and K-State took over near midfield. Howard dumped a screen off to Warner, whose blockers were impeccable and he raced 41 yards down the sideline to extend the lead to 28-0.
The Cowboys got a break when they converted a third down despite Felix Anudike-Uzomah being held by the throat and tacked on Sanders’s blind side, but K-State only gave up two more yards before forcing a punt. Vaughn immediately picked up 18, which pushed him over 100 on the day. Three plays later, he ran for 16.
The Wildcats got lucky then, as Jabbar Muhammad jumped the route on a pass to Warner, but couldn’t hold onto the ball. Howard hit Knowles on a cutback screen on 4th-and-2, a play which K-State stole from the Cowboys, then found Knowles again down to the one yard line. A couple of quarterback sneaks failed, then Howard dumped a pass to Vaughn for a 35-0 halftime lead.
A special teams miscue pinned Oklahoma State at their own eight to start the second half. They did manage to get out to the 40, but a huge sack by Brendan Mott forced a punt. The Cats had to punt as well, but the defense immediately forced a three-and-out to get the ball back.
Howard completed passes to Vaughn, Knowles, and Ben Sinnott to get the Cats down to the five; Zentner kicked his first career field goal from 23 to extend the lead to 38-0.
The Cowboys got to midfield, but turned it over on downs again; a big pass play to Knowles aided by a sick juke on the cover man and a fourth-down pickup by Howard got the Cats into the red zone. Again, K-State had to settle for three and a 41-0 lead as Zentner hit from 29.
The Wildcats went bend don’t break on the ensuing drive, which ended on a 4th-and-5 sack of Sanders by the one guy on defense who hadn’t really done anything yet all day: Anudike-Uzomah, who levelled Sanders for an 11-yard loss. The Cats went three-and-out, but Zentner pinned the Pokes at their own eight.
The Cowboys lost three yards, threw an incompletion, and lost two yards... against the Wildcat backups. Brooks returned the ensuing punt into the red zone, and Jake Rubley and DJ Giddens came in to manage the game’s denouement. Giddens ground the Cowboy defense relentlessly, finally making it 48-0 on a 9-yard touchdown run.
Facing their last gasp, Oklahoma State actually started moving the ball against K-State’s third string, but an interception by Krew Jackson with two minutes left preserved the shutout.
Howard ended the day 21-37 for 296 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Vaughn had 158 yards on 22 carries, an average of 7.2 per, with a touchdown; Giddens had 44 yards and a score on 7 carries in mopup duty.
Knowles caught 8 balls for 113 yards, while Warner had 97 yards and two touchdowns on 5 catches.
The Wildcats outgained Oklahoma State 495-217; that margin was 199-54 on the ground and 296-163 in the air. The defense limited Sanders to 13-26 for 147 yards, and the leading rusher for the Cowboys was Gundy, who gained 29 yards on 5 carries, mostly thanks to a 22-yard run just before he threw the shutout-clinching interception. In all, Oklahoma State was limited to 1.8 yards per carry.
K-State had 7 penalties for 60 yards compared to 4-35 for the Cowboys; time of possession went 35:29-24:31 in favor of the Cats.
What We Learned
1) The Wildcat defense is so legit it hurts.
Oklahoma State was averaging almost 45 points a game. Enough said.
Everyone got into the act today, and we’re not exaggerating. If we gave you a list of big defensive plays, there’d be 15 different guys mentioned.
2) That said, Austin Moore should be in the mix for post-season awards.
Moore has quite possibly been the best linebacker in the Wildcat lineup. He’s been everywhere all season, and today was no exception. Moore, more than anyone, was responsible for Oklahoma State being utterly unable to run the ball today.
3) Collin Klein has his revenge.
You all remember the 2012 game against Baylor. The game the week after Oklahoma State went head-hunting on Klein. Yeah.
4) When the K-State offense relies on Vaughn first, he’s not as effective.
One of the stats that really stuck out from the first half: even as Howard was throwing the ball all over the place, Vaughn managed 121 yards on the ground in the first half. This is not a coincidence. When the offense is “hand the ball to Deuce”, defenses key on him. Open the offense up, and he has room to operate.
5) From JT: Will Howard may finally be the real deal.
Howard played with poise and confidence all day, and he stood out for throwing the ball well. This wasn’t a game we won in spite of Howard, but rather because of him, and that’s a welcome change. He probably will not supplant Adrian Martinez because he expressly wanted to redshirt this year, but he’s made it a conversation.
Players of the Game
On offense, it’s Will Howard again for obvious reasons. Defensively, despite singling Moore out in What We Learned, we’re going to hand it to Brendan Mott, who also had a fantastic game and made more than one big play in key moments.
Yet another critical battle for second place and a spot in the Big 12 championship awaits the Cats, as they’ll have the opportunity to effectively eliminate Texas from the race at home next Saturday. Game time is not yet announced, but will likely get a prime TV slot. A win over the Longhorns would be critical, as it would leave K-State at least a game ahead of both Texas and Oklahoma State with the tiebreaker over both — which is essentially like having a two-game lead with three to play.