Saturday is why generations of Midwest football schemers preferred toting over flinging of the pig.
No. 22 Oklahoma’s 41-31 victory over Kansas State was wind-aided. The Sooners managed the 15 mph gusts from the north in Bill Snyder Family icebox better than the Wildcats and kept their slim Big 12 championship hopes alive in the process.
The old guard would have nodded knowingly over this one. For much of the 20th Century, coaches factored the Great Plains weather patterns into game plans and feared the flutter ball.
Not so much anymore in this era of soaring passing totals, and K-State aired out its offense Saturday in record fashion.
With 12 receptions for 278 yards, Tyler Lockett logged the most productive receiving day in Wildcats’ history. Throw in his 162 yards on kickoff returns, and his 440 all-purpose yards were the fifth-most in NCAA history.
Quarterback Jake Waters passed for 348 yards, a career best, and most days this would lead to victory.
But nearly all of the pitch-and-catch real estate occurred in the second and third quarters with the wind at K-State’s back. Waters was nine of 10 for 260 yards in that stretch, and threw all three touchdown passes to Lockett in the second quarter, including a 90-yarder. Into the wind, he was eight of 19 for 88 yards and two interceptions.
“We obviously wanted to take more shots down field with the wind,” Waters said. “When we had the wind, we felt like we could stretch the field a lot.”
The Cats did, wonderfully. Besides the 90-yarder, Lockett ran under scoring passes of 48 and 30 yards and wrote another chapter in the family history book. Uncle Aaron had the program’s last scoring reception of at least 90 yards, when he caught a 97-yarder in 1998.
Tyler also stands with his father, Kevin, on several Wildcats’ record lists.
“I think Tyler Is lot better, tell Kevin that,” said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, jokingly. Stoops was a Wildcats assistant in the early 1990s when Kansas State’s Lockett tradition started with Kevin. “It’s a great family… I’m proud of his son, the way he’s played.”
Stoops had a reason to feel pride of his own. Saturday marked career victory No. 158, moving him past Barry Switzer for first on the Sooners’ career list. The first postgame question to Stoops addressed the milestone, and he waved it off.
“I don’t have time to look at it to be honest with you,” Stoops said. “Down the road I’ll reflect back on it.”
But in a way, the outcome was a Stoops’ tribute to Switzer, who dominated the Big Eight through much of the 1970s and 1980s with a run-based attack. The wishbone carried those Sooners.
Saturday, freshman quarterback Trevor Knight, in his first start since mid-September, operated a zone read that accounted for 301 rushing yards and allowed Oklahoma to run up a big possession-time advantage.
Knight also threw effectively, but the passing game was set up by the ground success. Running back Brennan Clay motored for 200 and Knight added 82.
On the other side, Kansas State did little on the ground, and that’s was Oklahoma’s idea from outset. “To beat these guys you have to be great against the run, and we were,” Stoops said.
K-State mustered 24 rushing yards. In the dual quarterback system, Daniel Sams is the run-first operator, but he didn’t play after the first quarter. Kansas State was going to let the game on Waters’ arm, and that was fine with the wind at the Wildcats’ back.
When it wasn’t, trouble. In a key moment, Kansas State was backed up on its 3 when Waters threw three straight incompletions. Mark Krause’s punt into the wind was fielded by Jalen Saunders on the fly and he returned it to 3, where OU scored in one play and took a double-digit lead.
Now that sequence was set up by a call that went against the Cats. Knight appeared to have stepped out of bounds short of the stick on a fourth down. A stop there and K-State would have had the ball on its 39 and the momentum, down three to start the fourth.
But the call went Oklahoma’s way. And by removing the wind from the equation with a successful running game, so did the victory.