A game that began with unbridled energy and hope ended in agony for the Kansas State football team.
Oklahoma rallied from an early deficit to defeat K-State 42-35 on Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium, sending the Wildcats below .500 seven games into a season that continues to disappoint.
Sooners running back Rodney Anderson won the game with a 22-yard sprint up the left sideline with 7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The highlight play capped a furious comeback after K-State stunned a national viewing audience by jumping out to a 21-7 lead in the first half.
That was enough to throw a scare into the nation’s ninth-ranked team, but not enough for a season-altering victory.
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“This is a game we should have won,” K-State running back Alex Barnes said after rushing for 108 yards and a touchdown. “We had them at halftime. We were physically dominating them each and every snap. Justin (Silmon) ran a dude over, effortlessly. They didn’t want any piece of us. The pieces were there, we just didn’t get it all together at the right time.”
As peachy as things were in the first half, the Wildcats needed more to hold off OU quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Heisman Trophy contender sliced through K-State’s defense like a butcher, throwing for 410 yards and two touchdowns and running for 69 yards and two touchdowns.
It was a rough day for K-State’s secondary, which had to play without starting defensive backs Kendall Adams and Cre Moore. No. 9 Oklahoma (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) continually put its receivers in one-on-one matchups and easily found open space. K-State (3-4, 1-3) seemed to have few answers, particularly when Anderson got going in the second half and reached 147 yards.
“Our guys at halftime had a great look in their eyes,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “They were determined to come out and play a lot better and the mentality really went to another level there.”
This game mirrored K-State’s season in some ways. Everything looked spectacular in the beginning, then things turned bad, and a late surge fell short.
Still, the Wildcats came close. Bill Snyder isn’t into moral victories, but this could qualify as one.
Oklahoma was a 14-point favorite, and some K-State fans wondered if the Wildcats could cover the spread. But K-State players believed they could spring an upset, and played like it.
“If nothing else, I think that this showed that we are resilient and we have a lot of fight in us,” said K-State safety Sean Newlan, who filled in for Adams. “I think we played really well. I think we played hard throughout the entire football game.”
Left for dead last week following a 26-6 loss to TCU, the Wildcats did roar to life on offense and moved the ball at will for much of the afternoon. Problem is: they gave up 619 yards.
K-State looked like a totally different unit from the start. On the second play from scrimmage, Barnes found a hole between the tackles and outran everyone to the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown. Not only was it his longest run of the season, it was a confidence booster.
Oddly, though, he only saw five more carries, leaving many to wonder, why?
K-State coach Bill Snyder explained the Wildcats preferred to run formations that featured quarterback Alex Delton, who ran for 142 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. The majority of those plays call for a lead blocker, instead of a running back.
“It’s tough when you feel like you can go make a difference,” Barnes said, “and not get that opportunity.”
Behind the steady legs of Delton, the Wildcats were able to build a 21-10 halftime lead. Delton, a sophomore, looked much improved from his debut start against TCU and threw for 144 yards and a touchdown. The main reason why: he put his speed to good use.
K-State rushed for 256 yards in the first half against a defense that had allowed about 90 yards on the ground in its first three conference games. The Sooners couldn’t contain Barnes or Delton. Delton got loose for several long gains, including a 21-yard touchdown in which he tip-toed down the right sideline and dove to touch the football against the pylon.
“I was extremely comfortable,” Delton said. “I just felt that I was out there playing with my boys.”
Offensive coordinator Dana Dimel received a strong dose of criticism for calling predictable plays last week, and K-State’s offensive line challenged itself to give skill players time to make things happen. They both responded in the first half.
But Oklahoma adjusted and held K-State to 12 rushing yards in the second half.
K-State’s defense also showed up in the first half, with safety Denzel Goolsby making one of the niftiest interceptions you will ever see in the back of the end zone, but was unable to keep the pace.
“You have to play complete games in this conference,” Snyder said. “One half won’t do it. We played well some of the time on offense, some of the time on defense, but not consistently enough. We didn’t play both halves.”
The Sooners played so well in the second half that it felt as though they were winning even when they weren’t. Mayfield led them on one scoring drive after another until they had a 28-21 lead.
The Wildcats fought back after a fumble on an errant snap gave them excellent field position to tie the score at 28-28. And Delton engineered an impressed drive late in the fourth quarter with K-State trailing 35-28. The game was essentially over if he failed to guide the Wildcats into the end zone, but he didn’t flinch and found Byron Pringle for two long gains and then found Isaiah Zuber for a five-yard touchdown to tie the score with 2:19 remaining.
But it wasn’t quite enough to force overtime.
“We played well enough offensively during a segment of the ballgame to be a very fine football team,” Snyder said. “We played well enough defensively in a segment of the ballgame to be a very fine defensive football team. But we did not put it all together.”
KST—A.Barnes 75 run (McCrane kick), 14:42
OKL—Flowers 6 pass from Mayfield (Seibert kick), 12:16
KST—Delton 1 run (McCrane kick), 1:26
KST—Delton 21 run (McCrane kick), 10:15
OKL—FG Seibert 19, :38
OKL—Mayfield 14 run (Seibert kick), 12:16
OKL—FG Seibert 36, 5:57
OKL—Mayfield 3 run (Flowers pass from Mayfield), 14:19
KST—Delton 1 run (McCrane kick), 1:26
OKL—Anderson 5 pass from Mayfield (Seibert kick), 5:16
KST—Zuber 5 pass from Delton (McCrane kick), 2:25
OKL—Anderson 22 run (Seibert kick), :07
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Oklahoma, Anderson 19-147, Mayfield 9-69, Sermon 4-18, Sutton 1-4, Ky.Murray 2-4, Flowers 2-(minus 1), (Team) 1-(minus 32). Kansas St., Delton 27-142, A.Barnes 6-108, Silmon 4-12, Dimel 3-5, Warmack 1-3, Zuber 1-(minus 2).
PASSING—Oklahoma, Mayfield 32-40-1-410, (Team) 0-1-0-0. Kansas St., Delton 12-14-1-144.
RECEIVING—Oklahoma, Andrews 7-61, M.Brown 6-126, Badet 5-42, Anderson 4-30, My.Jones 3-76, Flowers 2-20, Sermon 2-7, J.Mead 1-31, Lamb 1-12, Smallwood 1-5. Kansas St., Zuber 7-25, Pringle 2-70, Schoen 1-39, Silmon 1-8, Heath 1-2.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Kansas St., McCrane 59.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett