Oklahoma vs. Kansas State: 10 Things We Learned in Sooners' Win
The Oklahoma Sooners left Manhattan, Kan., feeling confident after tossing aside the Kansas State Wildcats, 41-31.
It was a huge victory for Oklahoma as it heads into the bye week. Especially since the team was dealing with some key injuries and absences—Blake Bell (concussion), Lacoltan Bester (suspension) and Damien Williams (suspension).
But that wasn’t enough to slow down the Sooners, as they piled up 301 of their 472 total yards on the ground.
We learned a lot about this Oklahoma team on Saturday.
Here are 10 of those lessons.
Knight Just Won Himself Back the QB Job
After playing well in relief of the injured Blake Bell last weekend against Iowa State, Trevor Knight had many feeling like he deserved another shot at the quarterback job.
With Saturday’s performance, the redshirt freshman all but won it back.
Knight was tremendous all game long for the Sooners, throwing for a career-high 171 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 14-of-20 passing. He also added another 82 yards and a score on 14 carries.
But where Knight really showed off his improvement was on third down.
Whenever Oklahoma needed a critical third-down conversion, he responded. The team finished 9-of-15 in such situations.
If you recall, the Sooners were a combined 12-of-34 on third downs in Knight's previous two starts.
We already knew he was a threat to put up numbers on the ground—Knight has rushed for 80 or more yards three times in four games with significant playing time—but nobody expected him to be efficient through the air as well.
Knight proved that he’s capable of doing so today. In his first career road game no less.
It would be a surprise not to see the youngster trot out onto the field as Oklahoma’s starter during the Dec. 7 showdown against Oklahoma State.
No Matter Who Is in the Backfield, the Sooners Can Run the Ball
Last weekend, Oklahoma pounded the ball on the ground to 405 rushing yards. A large chuck of which could be credited to running back Damien Williams.
The senior racked up 128 yards for two touchdowns on just 10 carries. That included scores on runs of 69 and 19 yards.
With the announcement that Williams would miss Saturday’s contest against the Wildcats due to suspension, via ESPN’s Jake Trotter, it was expected that the Sooners rushing attack would take a hit.
That certainly wasn’t the case.
Oklahoma appeared to be able to rush the ball at will against Kansas State. The team piled up 301 rushing yards on 52 carries.
This time, running back Brennan Clay paced the attack, gashing the Wildcats defense for a career-high 200 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. Quarterback Trevor Knight also pitched in, piling up 82 yards and a score on 14 carries.
It was an impressive performance from the Sooners, who showcased the versatility that had the team entering Week 13 with the nation’s No. 17-ranked rushing attack (236.4 YPG).
Don't Underestimate the Pass Rush
Entering this matchup, Oklahoma struggled getting to the quarterback.
It’s been an issue for the team ever since ranking No. 9 in the nation with 40 in 2011. The Sooners only recorded 24 last year, good for a No. 69 ranking.
Through the team’s first six games, it looked like another down year. Oklahoma’s defense only mustered eight sacks in that span.
However, it’s been a different story as of late.
Coming into this weekend, the Sooners had tallied 14 sacks in the last four contests. That included five against Iowa State last weekend.
Oklahoma kept the charge going, bringing down Kansas State’s Jake Waters three times on the day.
The Sooners now have 25 sacks on the season and stand a good chance of moving into the top 40 among the nation.
Saunders Is Clutch
Given the inconsistent play from the quarterback position, there hasn’t been too many opportunities for the Oklahoma receiving corps to dazzle.
However, Jalen Saunders has easily established himself as the go-to-guy in times of need.
Through 11 games, the senior has caught 44 passes for a team-high 520 yards and five touchdowns. He showcased that talent on Saturday, grabbing seven balls for 95 yards—including a 48-yard bomb that set up points for the Sooners.
More importantly, when quarterback Trevor Knight needed a big third-down conversion, more often than not, the ball came Saunders’ way.
It will be interesting to see how much Knight will turn to him against a very good Oklahoma State secondary on Dec. 7.
Defense May Bend but Doesn't Break
Entering Week 13, the Oklahoma defense was ranked among the nation’s best.
The unit ranked No. 19 in scoring (20.1 PPG), No. 13 in total defense (326.4 YPG), No. 10 against the pass (182.8 YPG) and No. 32 against the run (143.6 YPG). Furthermore, the Sooners have given up just 12 touchdowns on the ground and 11 through the air.
On Saturday, the unit seemed to get burned a little too easily against the Wildcats. The team conceded touchdown passes of 90, 48 and 30 yards all in the second quarter alone.
At halftime, Oklahoma had surrendered 21 points and 271 total yards of offense.
Things changed in the second half.
Not only did the Sooners limit Kansas State to just 101 yards of offense, but the defense also made timely plays. Oklahoma came away with two interceptions, one that was returned 74 yards by Zack Sanchez for a touchdown.
That put the Sooners up 41-24 with a little over 11:47 remaining.
Say what you want about how poor the defense played in the first half. But there’s no argument that the unit came out to play in the second half.
Nobody Has Done It Better Than Stoops in Norman
Say what you want about Bob Stoops.
Yes, he has lost three consecutive BCS title games, all in embarrassing fashion. Sure, Stoops has lost five of his last six BCS bowl games.
But no matter what negative tidbit you want to throw in his face, it doesn’t change one pretty important fact: No other head coach has won more than Stoops has in Norman.
With the victory, Stoops recorded his 158th win with Oklahoma. It moved him out of a tie with the legendary Barry Switzer as the winningest coach in school history.
Since arriving in 1999, Stoops has already recorded 11 10-win seasons. At 9-3, he’s on the verge of adding a 12th in just 15 seasons.
Furthermore, he’s added eight Big 12 titles, a BCS title in 2000 and has an incredible 87-5 at home.
Stoops has raised the bar so high that even a potential 10-win season is considered a disappointment.
The Big 12 Title Is Still in Reach
Don’t look now, but with the win, the Sooners kept their slim hopes of a Big 12 title alive.
The team is now 6-1 in conference play. Only Texas (6-1), Oklahoma State (6-1) and Baylor (6-0) sit ahead of Oklahoma.
It certainly doesn’t help that both the Longhorns and Bears own the head-to-head advantage over the Sooners.
That means that Oklahoma State will have to beat Baylor on Saturday in order to give Oklahoma an outside shot of winning the Big 12. The team would also need Baylor to lose another—preferably to Texas—and for the Longhorns to also lose another.
It would result in a crazy scenario where all four teams would be sitting at 7-2 in Big 12 play with a 1-2 record against the other three. According to the Big 12 tiebreaker procedures, that would result in using the BCS standings to determine the champion.
If the Sooners win out, they would have a great chance to be the highest-ranked team when the dust settles.
The Sooners Own the Wildcats
If Oklahoma had its way, the team would face Kansas State every weekend.
Since head coach Bob Stoops took over in Norman, the Sooners are 9-1 against the Wildcats during the regular season. That includes winning five straight at Bill Snyder Family Stadium—a streak that dates back to 1996.
Oklahoma has won by an average score of 39.8-27.1.
To add insult to injury, Stoops actually coached under Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder earlier in his career.
Talk about sticking it to your mentor.
Five of the nine victories came against a Wildcats squad that was .500 or better.
Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Crimson and Cream
Beat the Sooners if you must. But don’t expect to get so lucky the second time around.
That’s because Oklahoma has now won 10 consecutive games against foes they lost to the previous season.
Last year, Kansas State got the better of the Sooners in Norman, 24-19. It was a game Oklahoma was supposed to win, and it ultimately wound up costing the team a shot at the Big 12 title.
After Saturday, you could say justice has been served.
Other than the Wildcats, Notre Dame, Baylor, Texas Tech and Texas are among the victims.
Stoops Is Quick
“He takes the ball up the left. Cutback to the right. There he goes…15…10…5…touchdown, Bob Stoops!”
Following the conclusion of Saturday’s win, several Oklahoma players tried to sneak up behind Stoops and surprise him with a nice Gatorade shower. One even tried to distract him with a handshake.
But just like any great running back, Stoops relied on his awareness and presence of mind to spot the defender, dish out a stiff arm of sorts and evade his foes.
From there, he turned on the jets and was out of sight.
That kind of agility is enough to find success behind the work the Sooners offensive line has put in thus far this season. Heck, Stoops could have easily topped the century mark against a Wildcats defense that was gashed for 301 yards on the ground.
With running backs going down lately like flies in Norman, it’s time Oklahoma updated its depth chart.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.