Shortly after Kansas State defeated Oklahoma last season, a beaming Ryan Mueller emerged from the visiting locker room at Memorial Stadium with something to say.
“This win is really special,” he declared. “The great Kansas State teams beat OU.”
The former K-State defensive end had a point. The Wildcats beat the Sooners on their way to each of their conference championships, downing then-No. 1 Oklahoma at Arrowhead Stadium in the 2003 Big 12 championship game and then-No. 6 Oklahoma on the road in 2012. Last year they beat Oklahoma on the way to nine victories and a trip to the Alamo Bowl.
Those were all great K-State teams.
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Yet no K-State team — not even the great ones — have been able to beat Oklahoma in recent years at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Sooners haven’t lost in Manhattan since 1996, before the youngest members of K-State’s current roster were born.
They are undefeated in Manhattan under Bob Stoops, winning five straight games — all by double digits. No other team in the Big 12 has enjoyed similar success. K-State has defeated every other current league opponent at home since 2011 and every former conference rival at home since 2004.
“They have just played better,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “That is probably what it all boils down to.”
There is something about Manhattan that brings the best out of Oklahoma. In 2013 it shrugged off a pair of early losses and beat K-State 41-31, setting off a string of victories that ended with an upset of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. In 2011 the Sooners bounced back from a shocking loss to Texas Tech and annihilated K-State 58-17. The Wildcats entered that game undefeated and ranked eighth behind quarterback Collin Klein.
In 2008 Oklahoma beat K-State 58-35. In 2004 it won 31-21. In 2000 it won 41-31, beating another K-State team ranked in the top 10. All the while, K-State had won two in a row in Norman.
That’s some streak.
“There isn’t any magic to it,” Stoops said this week. “It is execution and making plays when you get the opportunity to make them. Overall, it is just that we have executed in some instances in a pretty good way.”
That’s not the norm for visiting teams.
The Wildcats have won countless home games against notable opponents since Oklahoma began its Manhattan dominance, including Southern California, Miami, UCLA, Texas, Nebraska and TCU. Bill Snyder is 137-32-1 at home since 1990, with a 69-27-1 mark against Big 12 teams. He rarely loses by double digits at home.
Oklahoma is the exception.
“I was kind of surprised finding out that Oklahoma has won five straight here,” K-State center Dalton Risner said. “That surprises me. Playing here at home gives us such an advantage. I feel like we can beat anybody. We just played TCU like that. It gives us so much more confidence having the fan base behind us. It surprises me, but I think we are about to break that streak on Saturday.
“No doubt about it.”
It won’t be easy. Though No. 19 Oklahoma looked hapless against Texas last week, losing a game it was favored to win by 17 points, it tends to bounce back from losses with a vengeance. The Sooners have not lost back-to-back games in the regular season since 1999, Stoops’ first year in Norman.
Since then they are 31-0 in that situation.
“You know they are going to play hard, especially coming off a loss,” K-State receiver Kyle Klein said. “We always seem to get OU after someone has poked the hornet’s nest. We are going to have to bring our A-game to play with them.”
K-State players say ending Oklahoma’s streak won’t be a major motivator for them, as many of them will be taking on the Sooners at home for the first time. Winning, regardless of the opponent, and bouncing back from consecutive losses is what drives them.
Still, this game is personal on some level. After all, the great Kansas State teams beat OU.
Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett