Chris Klieman’s first public remarks as the head coach of the Kansas State Wildcats featured a phrase that has become a mantra for the program and the university – ‘Win The Dang Day’.
They haven’t won a dang day quite like the one they won Saturday in Manhattan for a long time.
Skylar Thompson rushed for four touchdowns and the Wildcats withstood a furious fourth-quarter comeback to shock fifth-ranked Oklahoma 48-41 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, giving K-State their first home win over Oklahoma since 1996 and their first win over a top-five team since 2006.
“Our guys just continued to believe, even when we got down,” said head coach Chris Klieman. “It’s a great program win. I couldn’t be happier for our guys.”
The Cats rallied from an early 10-0 deficit and took their first lead on Thompson’s second touchdown run of the game late in the first half, holding a 24-23 advantage going into the locker room. K-State then proceeded to score 24 consecutive points to open the second half and then held on as OU scored 18 unanswered and nearly recovered an onside kick with 1:43 to play before replay showed the kick was touched illegally by a Sooner player.
“Getting into a rhythm and being able to run with our power game inside was the biggest key,” said Klieman. “And I thought Skylar was on point. He really stepped up in a leadership role today and he’s getting better and better within our system.”
Oklahoma jumped out front early, scoring on their first four drives of the game. They led 10-0 at the 9:21 mark of the first quarter after a touchdown run by quarterback Jalen Hurts. But K-State responded with a 10-play, 88-yard scoring march, capped off by Thompson’s four yard run to make it 10-7. Another Hurts rushing touchdown made it 17-7 to wrap up the first, but the Cats were finding their rhythm on the ground and Josh Youngblood’s four-yard run on a jet sweep – his first career score – cut the deficit back to three at 17-14.
The two teams traded field goals late in the first half, and then K-State got their first big break of the game. AJ Parker came up with an interception of a wide receiver pass by OU’s Nick Basquine and returned the ball to the OU 14 in the final minute of the half. The Cats capitalized, with Thompson’s 14 yard run giving them their first lead of the game at 24-20.
Despite OU’s late field goal to end the half, K-State maintained the momentum coming out of the locker room. They produced points on the opening drive of the third quarter, with Blake Lynch’s field goal from 37 yards restoring the four-point lead. After K-State forced a Sooner three-and-out, the offense took advantage of short field after a poor punt and extended their lead to 34-23 on a three-yard run by Thompson. The ensuing kickoff was mishandled by Oklahoma and recovered by the Wildcats at the OU 25 yard line, and once again Thompson carried the ball across the goal line, with his two-yard run making it 41-23. The Cats wrapped up their dominant third quarter by forcing another three-and-out and embarking on a 10-play, 73-yard drive that ended early in the fourth quarter with a two-yard touchdown run by James Gilbert.
The Sooners didn’t go down without a fight. CeeDee Lamb took a screen pass 70 yards to cut the K-State lead to 48-30 with 12:32 to play. After a K-State punt, OU drove it back down the field to score again on the third rushing TD of the night by Hurts, a one-yard plunge. Hurts threw to Lamb on the two-point conversion to make it 48-38 with 5:36 left. Gabe Brkic tacked on his fourth field goal of the game, a 39-yarder with 1:45 left, setting up the onside kick that decided the contest. Initially, OU recovered after a big bounce and a wild scramble, but after a lengthy review, the officials ruled that the ball touched a Sooner before it had traveled 10 yards, giving K-State possession and allowing them to kneel out the clock.
K-State was outgained 497-426 on the day but pulled out the win thanks to excellent offensive balance, with 213 rushing yards and 213 passing yards. They were 6-for-13 on third down and held OU to just 3-for-8. Thompson had 39 rushing yards to go with his 213 passing yards. Gilbert’s 105 rushing yards led the Wildcats and Dalton Schoen was the leading receiver with five grabs for 68 yards. Hurts rushed for 96 yards and threw for 395, accounting for all four of OU’s touchdowns.
K-State has now won two straight games and are 5-2, 2-2 in the Big 12. They visit Kansas for the Sunflower Showdown next Saturday.