MANHATTAN, Kan. — One by one, the captains from Oklahoma stood in front of their teammates this week and laid out the obvious: Losing to Texas was a disaster, but not one that should define their season.
Kansas State’s captains probably are saying the same thing about losing to TCU.
The two schools, both coming off disheartening defeats last weekend, meet on Saturday when the No. 19 Sooners visit the Wildcats. Oklahoma needs a bounce-back victory to stay in the Big 12 and national championship race, while Kansas State simply needs something to feel good about.
"You’re always looking for different ways to motivate guys. I find it hard to trick a 21-year-old into wanting to play," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "They decide and choose if they’re excited and ready to play or not. If they’re not ready, that’s their fault."
They certainly weren’t a week ago in the Red River Rivalry.
Oklahoma (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) struggled from the outset against the Longhorns, falling behind early and never recovering. It was an outcome that not only raised new questions about Stoops and his future in Oklahoma, but also may have saved Texas coach Charlie Strong’s job.
"The way we played was unacceptable," said Sooners center Ty Darlington said, among the captains who addressed the team. "This is definitely an adverse situation, but at the same time all is not lost. We have a lot of goals still out in front of us."
That’s because the meet of Oklahoma’s schedule gets going with a trip to Kansas State. TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State — its biggest Big 12 threats — are still on the docket after it.
The Wildcats (3-2, 0-2) lost to the Cowboys on a last-minute field goal two weeks ago, and to the Horned Frogs on a last-minute touchdown last week. If not for blowing halftime leads in both games, they might be the ones still harboring Big 12 and national championship aspirations.
Instead, the injury ravaged Wildcats are just trying to scratch out a win.
"We’re tired of losing these tough games because we know that we can play with anybody, and we showed that," Kansas State quarterback Joe Hubener said. "TCU is a great team and we played right with them the whole game."
Until the final minute, of course. When asked what the solution to their second-half woes, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder trotted out a popular coaching cliche.
"I know this is a bad answer, but it’s a matter of execution," he said. "I don’t think there is anything that is going to be mind boggling that we came up with."
As the Sooner and Wildcats prepare to meet, here are some things to keep in mind:
PERINE’S PROBLEM: Sooners running back Samaje Perine ran for 1,713 yards and 21 touchdowns as a freshman. So far this season? Just 364 yards and three touchdowns, including 10 carries for 36 yards last week against Texas. "We have to take advantage of what opportunities we get to run the ball effectively," he said. "We’re just not doing that right now."
MAN-HAPPINESS: Oklahoma has won five straight games at Kansas State, even though Manhattan is regarded as one of the tougher road environments in the Big 12.
RUN, RUN, RUN: Hubener leads the Wildcats in rushing attempts this season, even though he plays quarterback. That’s not surprising to Stoops, who was once Snyder’s assistant and is quite familiar with Kansas State. "Always with their teams, quarterback run game is a major part of what they do," he said. "They’re always really sound."
PASS, PASS, PASS: Baker Mayfield threw for 211 yards and a touchdown against the Longhorns, but the Oklahoma quarterback acknowledged he needed to do more. He faces a Kansas State pass defense that was shredded by TCU last week.
SPEAKING OF ATTITUDES: Stoops and Snyder are both confident that their players will bounce back from disappointing losses. "When we all have some type of tremendous letdown in our lives, after we stop feeling sorry for ourselves, there is some anger. It’s just normal happenstance," Snyder said. "But at the end of the day, it’s really what we do about that anger."