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Historical matchup for Sooners-Wildcats Saturday

October 25, 2019 ▪ By Ray Dozier

The last time Oklahoma lost to Kansas State in Manhattan, President Clinton was campaigning for reelection, ER was the top show on television, and John Blake was the Sooners head coach. OU owns a seven-game winning streak in the Little Apple.

The Sooners have proven to be road warriors not only in Manhattan but in every game since 2015. Oklahoma currently owns the nation's longest real road win streak at 22, just three victories shy of the post-World War II record held by Bud Wilkinson's Sooners set from 1953-58.

The No. 5 Sooners (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) will meet K-State (4-2, 1-2) at 11 a.m. (ABC) in Manhattan, Kansas. This game marks the 100th matchup between the two schools. Theodore Roosevelt occupied the White House in 1908 when the two teams first met. Bennie Owen was OU's coach, and TV had yet to be invented.

KSU defeated No. 23 Mississippi State (31-24) in the third week of the season, and fans in the Little Apple had visions of the Big 12 title dancing in their heads. But the Wildcats had two consecutive setbacks at the hands of Oklahoma State, and Baylor and Big 12 championship hopes went “poof.” And, Miss State has gone 1-3 since losing to the Cats, including three straight losses. K-State rebounded with a 24-17 win over TCU last week.

KSU drove 95 yards for a touchdown late in the game against the Horned Frogs to take a 24-17 game-deciding lead over the Horned Frogs to move to 4-2. Quarterback Skylar Thompson capped the drive with a 3-yard run.

Thompson has completed 60 percent of his passes this year for 994 yards, 7 TDs, and one interception. K-State is not a passing power (171.8 ypg, No. 114 nationally), but the Wildcats are known for pounding the rock. They average 197.2 ypg (No. 35) on the ground and have three running backs capable of sharing the load. James Gilbert, Jordon Brown, and Harry Trotter have combined for 782 yards on 148 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and 9 TDs. Thompson is the team's second-leading ball carrier with 165 yards and 3 scores.

When the Cats go through the air, Dalton Schoen is the leading receiver with 18 grabs for 254 yards and 3 TDs.

KSU was near the top nationally in controlling the clock under Bill Snyder's era, and things haven't changed under new coach Chris Klieman. The Wildcats possess the ball an average of 34:11 per game (57%) to rank fifth in the country. This could be vital to keep Jalen Hurts and company on the sideline.

K-State averages 30.2 points (No. 61) and 369 yards (No. 96) per game.

When the Sooners take the field Saturday, they will face a defense that ranks No. 5 in passing yards allowed (152.5 ypg). Baylor put up 268 yards two weeks ago, the most against KSU's defense this season. The purple D has yielded only 3 passing TDs this year. But Kansas State hasn't seen an offense that Oklahoma will bring to Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Sooners have the nation's sixth-best passing offense (339.3 ypg) and lead the country in scoring (50.4 ppg) and total offense (612.9).

The Wildcats allowed foes to score an average of 18.7 ppg (No. 19) and 347.7 ypg (No. 41). Safety Wayne Jones leads the Wildcats with 30 tackles and end Wyatt Hubert leads with 5 tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. The defense has 8 takeaways. Cornerback AJ Parker has picked off 2 passes. KSU stands out with a solid third-down defense. The Cats are second nationally by allowing opponents to convert third downs only 23.9 percent of the time.

Hurts is making a bid to become the third straight quarterback to win a Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma. His 11.7 yards per play and QB rating of 226.1 are tops in the country. Hurts has completed 114 of 154 passing (74%) for 2,074 yards, 20 TDs, and 3 INTs. He also leads OU with 705 rushing yards and 10 more TDs.

Cee Dee Lamb also has made a play for Heisman talk with 31 receptions for 681 yards and 10 scores. He's undoubtedly a strong candidate for the Biletnikoff Award.

While Oklahoma has the best offense in college football, the defense has had a resurgence under first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. The Sooners were last in defending the pass (294 ypg) a year ago and 101st in points allowed (33.3). OU also ranked 114th by giving up 453.8 yards per game in 2018. This year, Oklahoma has leaped to 23rd in scoring defense (19.4 ppg), 37th in pass defense (198.6), and 28th in total defense (326.3).

The defense also has surged in third-down defense—46.4% in 2018 to 27.8% this year. The Sooners have made tremendous progress in swarming to the ball, and the secondary hasn't allowed opposing receivers to blow past them as in recent years. Linebacker Kenneth Murray is likely a strong candidate for the Butkus Award as the leads Oklahoma with 51 stops, 7.5 behind the line, including 2.5 sacks. The front line, led by tackle Neville Gallimore, has been disruptive. He has 5.5 tackles for loss, including 3 sacks.

The defense overall has 58 stops behind the line, including 22 sacks. Through seven games a year ago, those numbers were 46 and 18, respectively.

The Sooners manhandled West Virginia, 52-14, last week. The Sooners jumped to a 14-0 lead, and after the Mountaineers cut the deficit to 14-7, OU added a couple more touchdowns to take a 28-14 halftime lead. WVU was shut out in the second half and held to 86 total yards. Oklahoma's defense held the Mountaineers to 242 total yards, the lowest this season.

Hurts earned is second Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honor by completing 16 of 17 passing for 316 yards and 3 TDs. He also ran for 92 yards and two more scores.

Brayden Willis blocked a punt late in the third quarter, and Austin Stogner cradled the ball in the end zone for a 49-14 lead.

The Sooners' O-line is expected to have the same starters for the third consecutive week—Creed Humphrey at center, Erik Swenson, and Adrian Ealy at tackle, and Marquis Hayes and Tyrese Robinson at guard. This unit is currently on the Joe Moore Award midseason watch list, honoring the best offensive line. The cohesiveness of this unit is what will help Oklahoma keep the Wildcat defense in check.

With an early kickoff, it's questionable how rowdy this crowd will be. Look for both teams to pound it on the ground. The Wildcats have allowed 195.2 rushing yards per game (No. 102). Hurts and the running backs should see plenty of carries. Oklahoma has four solid RBs who will rotate in and out using fresh legs, which will also open up the passing game for OU.

If OU get on top by two touchdowns early—game over. If K-State keeps it close into the fourth period, Lincoln Riley is the best play-caller to exploit the Cats' D.

Sooners 38, Wildcats 10.

Fast Facts

  • OU leads the series 76-19-4, including 4 straight victories.
  • OU is 36-10 in Manhattan, including 7 straight wins.
  • OU is favored by 23.5.
  • OU has averaged 46.6 points in the Manhattan winning streak with 31 points being the lowest in 2004.
  • OU is 38-2 vs. Big 12 foes since Lincoln Riley came aboard as offensive coordinator and later head coach.
  • Lincoln Riley's record: 31-4 (.886) overall; 2-0 vs. KSU; 10-0 on the road; 24-1 vs. unranked opponents; 21-2 vs. conference foes.
  • Chris Klieman's record: 4-2 at KSU (his first stint at an FBS school); he was 69-6 at two FCS schools; he won 4 national championships at North Dakota State.
  • OU is 9-3 in games played on October 26.
  • KSU is 6-9 in games played on October 26.

Articles by Ray Dozier