K-State's defense showed its old habits against Oklahoma -- the kind of habits that get you beat
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Here's the irony: On a cold, blustery day that made throwing the ball a pain in the tush, Saturday's Oklahoma-Kansas State game was largely about ... passing.
Bob Stoops passed Barry Switzer. Tyler Lockett passed Darren Sproles (and himself).
But the big one, the doozy, was the fact that Brennan Clay passed just about every Wildcat defender in sight.
"They ran all over us," K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller said after the Sooners did just that, piling up 301 rushing yards en route to a 41-31 win at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. "I mean, I don't know how else to answer that. They ran the ball on us, we didn't stop the run, and it was extremely frustrating."
Clay, Oklahoma's senior tailback, rambled for 200 on 31 carries. Much-feted redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight had 82 on 14 totes. Together, the two spent the afternoon playing sleight-of-hand games with Mueller and the rest of his mates, with the Wildcats frequently guessing wrong on a zone-read look. Or getting blown off the line of scrimmage. Or both.
"It is something he has been very good at and we've seen a lot on tape," coach Bill Snyder said of Knight, who ran for a score and threw for another. "We knew he was going to run it, but we didn't defend it very well."
The Sooners converted on nine of its 15 third-down opportunities and held the ball for 35:07 to K-State's 24:53. When the hosts needed to get off the field, more often than not, they didn't. Oklahoma had the rock for nearly 73 percent of the second and third quarters.
In fact, it was eerily reminiscent of the season-opening loss to North Dakota State, especially the gruesome, hide-the-women-and-children fourth quarter part. It was as if a defense that had spent two months making stride after stride came full circle, in the wrong way. And against the absolutely wrong dance partner.
"They do a good job of getting themselves into the right play, which would be difficult for us to handle," said linebacker Blake Slaughter, one of several undersized defenders who wound up getting stuck in traffic, only to see Clay whiz by. "They do a great job of staying on blocks and getting movement.
"If you aren't fitting right, someone is going to get exposed, and that's what they hang their hat on."
The conditions factored in, too, with an icy wind that whipped from the northeast, sometimes at a pace as brisk as 18 miles per hour. The temperature at kickoff was 25 degrees, officially, but it felt about 10 degrees colder than that.
"Going into the wind, I mean (it wasn't) too bad, to be honest," noted K-State quarterback Jake Waters, who did most of the heavy lifting under center (29 pass attempts, three TDs through the air, two picks), despite the unfriendly climate. "The cold, I mean, you try to keep your hands warm. But, for the most part, it really didn't affect us."
Which is baloney, and other assorted meats. Down three, the Wildcats went into the wind in the fourth quarter, a decision that burned Snyder in hindsight. Roughly a minute into the period, the hosts were forced to punt from their own end zone, and hilarity ensued. Mark Krause's kick ascended, then hit a wall and fell suddenly to Earth, dropping like a shuttlecock at about the K-State 33.
The Sooners' Jalen Saunders scooted under it with a full head of steam and never broke stride, returning an already comically short boot all the way to the hosts' 3-yard line. Clay scored on the ensuing play, and the extra point that followed pushed Oklahoma's lead to 34-24.
"We backed ourselves in there and didn't do anything about getting off the goal-line," groused Snyder, who lost a home finale for the first time since 2009. "And part of it is offense. We hit poorly and we covered poorly and all three of those things added to the problems."
Which is a shame, because it wiped away what should have been -- and really was -- Lockett's afternoon. The Oklahoma native shattered his own single-game school record for receiving yards (278), broke the single-game all-purpose yardage record shared by Sproles and Brandon Banks (440) and tied the K-State mark for receiving touchdowns in a game (three).
"He's a freak. He's a freak," Mueller said of the K-State receiver, who wasn't made available to reporters after the game. "Every time I looked up, he was catching the ball, going the distance."
"Regardless of how many catches and yards he gets," Snyder said, "what concerns me is we lost the ballgame."
The Jedi Master was a tad crustier than usual after the game, which is understandable. His old pupil, Stoops, strategized circles around him as the latter became the all-time winningest coach in Oklahoma history. Of all the curious decisions on the day, one of the most head-scratching was the relative absence of run-first quarterback Daniel Sams -- especially on a stage ideally suited for, well, running first.
Why so much of Waters at the controls? Was it something Oklahoma was doing defensively?
"Probably so," Snyder said.
Well, then what did you tell the players in the locker room after the damage was done? The old coach -- no shock -- passed on that one.
"Well," Snyder said, stone-faced. "I'd rather not say." You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.