Kansas State Proves It's a Legit Big 12 Contender with Win over Oklahoma

Sean FryeFeatured ColumnistOctober 18, 2014

USA Today

Ask anybody in the Big 12 and they'll tell you that the road to the conference title runs through Norman, Oklahoma. 

Well, the Kansas State Wildcats used scorched earth tactics on Saturday afternoon at Gaylord Memorial Stadium, upending the Oklahoma Sooners 31-30 and taking a hold of their Big 12 and playoff destiny. 

Saturday's road upset of the Sooners was just an exclamation point on what has already been a successful season for the underrated Wildcats. Had it not been for three missed field goals and three turnovers against Auburn—including a dropped-pass-turned-interception in the end zone by Tyler Lockett—the Wildcats may very well be ranked in the Top Five. 

But that loss kept the Wildcats in the backs of everybody's minds...until now. 

Behind quarterback Jake Waters, the Wildcats have made a statement to the nation that they are perhaps the baddest force in the Big 12. 

And at 5-1, they may be in line for playoff contention. 

Waters, who's gone virtually unnoticed, despite putting up good numbers, made Norman look like his playground. He threw for 225 yards, rushed for 51 more and had three total touchdowns at a stadium that is supposed to neutralize opposing quarterbacks. 

Perhaps the man who's finally going to get some much-deserved recognition after Saturday's win is wideout Curry Sexton. This season, he has been the Scottie Pippen to K-State's Michael Jordan, Lockett. ESPN's Jake Trotter thinks Sexton may just be the best player people are not aware of:

While Lockett finished with more yards receiving (86) in the game than Sexton (77), it was Sexton who had eight catches—two more than Lockett. Sexton also came down with a catch on a critical third down in the final two minutes of the game with K-State pinned inside its own territory.

The Wildcats are full of weapons in nearly every facet of the game. 

There's the two-headed monster of Charles Jones and DeMarcus Robinson at running back, combining for 112 yards on just 20 carries on Saturday.

There's also Glenn Gronkowski (yes, the little brother of Rob Gronkowski), who hauled in a 62-yard touchdown pass.

There's Ryan Mueller, a former walk-on who's turned into one of the most feared defensive ends in college football.

There's Danzel McDaniel, the unheralded JUCO transfer from Dodge City Community College who had a pick-six on a terrible pass from Trevor Knight. He's established himself as one of the best pursuers of the ball in the secondary throughout the conference. ESPN CollegeFootball highlighted McDaniel's interception:

Even at kicker, the Wildcats run deep. After Jack Cantele was benched following his poor showing against Auburn, Bill Snyder replaced him with Matthew McCrane.

McCrane was 1-of-1 on field goals and 4-of-4 on extra points on Saturday. It wasn't overly impressive since the field goal was a 27-yard chip shot, but he outperformed Oklahoma's Michael Hunnicutt, who is widely considered one of the best kickers in all of college football.

On the season, McCrane is 3-of-3 on field goals.

And of course, there's Waters. Not only did he rack up the numbers on Saturday but he also did it with his throwing shoulder banged-up after being taken down hard on a big run in the second quarter. 

According to Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star, Waters told Snyder after coming out of the locker room that he was ready to go the whole game with the full playbook at his arsenal: 

What's so surprising about K-State is that it doesn't employ any type of trickery to beat you. In fact, Snyder and the Wildcats are often the antithesis to the latest trends in the game.

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Bob Stoops, a direct member of the Snyder coaching tree, tried a reverse pass with a wideout to beat his old mentor.

K-State picked it off.

The Wildcats are so old-school, even ESPN's Holly Rowe knows that Snyder has no idea what it means to be trending on Twitter, which the Wildcats certainly were after upending Oklahoma: 

Only three Wildcats caught a pass against the Sooners, despite Waters throwing 23 passes and completing 15 of them.

It will certainly be argued that Hunnicutt's kicking struggles—not Kansas State—ultimately beat the Sooners.

But that's what K-State does. It's disciplined—the team committed just two penalties and had no turnovers on Saturday—and it makes opponents uncomfortable wherever it is. 

College football is about winning the big games under the brightest lights. As David Fritchen of GoPowercat.com points out, K-State is doing that as well as any elite team in the nation:

When the Wildcats won the Big 12 two years ago, they won in Norman on their way to a Fiesta Bowl appearance.

It appears history is starting to repeat itself.