The Kansas State Wildcats weren’t able to maintain their giant-killed status of past few years on Saturday afternoon, falling to the sixth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners at home 37-31 after winning their head-to-head matchup each of the last two seasons.
Kansas State is now 3-2 on the year, while Oklahoma remains undefeated at 5-0.
It was a massive day for the Wildcats’ offense, which posted 420 total yards of offense, including 320 yards through the air for senior quarterback Skylar Thompson, who returned to action after getting injured back in Week 2 against Southern Illinois. K-State did what it could to hide Thompson’s return, with coach Chris Klieman downplaying his status during the week and even the in-house video before the game announcing sophomore quarterback Will Howard as the starter.
Despite Thompson’s triumphant return, the Wildcats only led once in Saturday’s game, taking a 7-3 advantage in the first quarter on a two-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to junior receiver Phillip Brooks.
The defense, meanwhile, had a tough day for Kansas State. After limiting the Oklahoma offense to just a field goal and 16 yards on eight plays in the first quarter, the Sooners offense took off running from there. Over the final three quarters of the game, Oklahoma averaged 7.2 yards per play and they scored on all but two drives over the course of the game: Late in the third quarter when OU quarterback Spencer Rattler was intercepted on the K-State side of the field and on the final drive of the game, which ended in a kneel down.
That defensive effort was due to any sort of surprise from the Oklahoma offense, according to Klieman.
“Everything that we had seen, with the different personnel groups, they just executed at an extremely, extremely high level,” Klieman said.
The third-year coach said that overall he thought the Wildcats would be able to compete against the country’s sixth-ranked team, and they did just that.
“We played a really good football team today and went toe to toe with them..,” Kansas State coach Chris Klieman said. “We knew they were going to make plays, and we really thought we could make plays on these guys.”
One of the game’s biggest turning points came in the third quarter immediately after a touchdown pass from Thompson to sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn. The Wildcats attempted a surprise onside kick and recovered it, and upon initial review the ruling was upheld.
However, Oklahoma was allowed to challenge the play even though they were not supposed to. The Sooners challenged that Wildcats senior kicker Ty Zentner had kicked the ball twice, which is illegal. Possession was subsequently turned over to Oklahoma.
Klieman was not pleased with the ruling, emphasizing that the second review never should have happened.
“I’m frustrated like a lot of K-Staters are out there,” Klieman said. “I didn’t get a great explanation.”
Constant aggression was a major theme of the game for Kansas State, with the Wildcats attempting the aforementioned surprise onside kick and going for it on fourth down five times, converting on four of them. The only one they didn’t convert was an incomplete pass to senior receiver Landry Weber that was initially called a catch, only to be overturned on review.
“I told the guys that we believed in them and I needed to believe in them even more,” Klieman said. “I also thought we could move the football against these guys.”
Thompson finished the game 29-of-41 passing with those 320 yards and three touchdown passes. Vaughn led K-State in both rushing and receiving, with 51 yards on the ground and 104 yards through the air.
Rattler had an especially efficient game for Oklahoma, going 22-of-25 passing for 243 yards and two touchdowns along with the intereption. Running back Kennedy Brooks had a game-high 91 rushing yards and a score for the Sooners.
Aside from the game itself, it was an emotional and celebratory day at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Former Wildcat Darren Sproles was honored for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, and he was honored at halftime alongside several other K-State alumni as inductees into the K-State Sports Hall of Fame. That group also included former K-State receiver Jordy Nelson.
The Wildcats will have next Saturday off before hosting the Iowa State Cyclones on Oct. 16.