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Bob Lutz: Oklahoma shows K-State is good, not great

  • Published Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011, at 7:54 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011, at 11:35 p.m.

MANHATTAN — This, obviously, didn't go like Kansas State wanted it.

But a team that isn't as good as its 7-0 record and No. 8 BCS ranking indicated isn't as bad as its 58-17 drubbing at the hands of Oklahoma implies, either.

K-State is somewhere in between all of that. The Wildcats are still 7-1, but were robbed of some of their dignity with another bandit, Oklahoma State, looming next week in Stillwater.

Where did it go wrong?

The obvious answer is the second half, when OU outscored K-State 35-0 out-gained the Wildcats with 378 yards to KSU's 42 and took much of the sting out of last week's hard-to-fathom loss to Texas Tech in Norman.

A focused OU came out of the locker room ready to roll and jumped to a 14-0 lead in less than eight minutes.

But K-State's resolve came into play — at least temporarily. Wildcat quarterback Collin Klein led a comeback that saw K-State jump ahead 17-14 with 12:44 to play in the second quarter.

Dare I say that after watching Klein dismantle the OU defense with his legs, including a highlight-reel 42-yard touchdown run in which he overpowered more than a couple of tacklers, I had an inkling that I was going to write a column about Klein jumping into the Heisman Trophy discussion.

But that column is on ice, much the way K-State's offense went cold after scoring 17 points.

K-State coach Bill Snyder blamed himself for his team's ills. He said he sensed the Wildcats weren't prepared mentally or strategically before they went to the field for the opening kick and claims he wasn't diverted off that thinking by the comeback that produced a short-lived lead.

I don't know. Might such a confession be Snyder's attempt to get the attention of his team and get a head start on averting a second blowout loss against the Cowboys next week?

I'm not sure what Snyder could have done differently. K-State was outclassed in every facet as Sooner quarterback Landry Jones, who catches an unusual amount of grief from OU fans, passed for 505 yards and two touchdowns.

True, his two first-half interceptions were helpful in K-State's comeback. Both were poorly-thrown footballs. But for most of the game, Jones was a pinpoint passer, as his 35-for-47 completion numbers attest.

It doesn't hurt, of course, that Jones is throwing to perhaps the finest receiving corps in the country. Ryan Broyles, the best receiver in OU history, caught 14 passes for 171 yards. But Jones spread the ball around and his receivers made a bunch of acrobatic catches.

K-State's defensive line never put much pressure on Jones, who wasn't sacked.

The Oklahoma defense, meanwhile, put the hurt on Klein with seven sacks. And after taking the running game away from the Wildcats, it was an OU defensive free-for-all against a quarterback who never triggered a passing attack. Klein, even though his team trailed for much of the game, threw only 16 passes, completing eight for 58 yards.

In the spread offense era of college football, those lowly numbers are hard to believe.

Yet they show how susceptible the Wildcats are when they fall behind in a game and need a passing attack to fight back.

Eventually, the K-State running attack that fueled its early comeback stalled because Oklahoma was able to focus entirely on stopping the run.

Klein is a valiant runner and a tremendous leader, but his limitations are glaring. Snyder has been able to keep them out of the light of day for most of the season, but the Oklahoma defense exposed them.

There were signs that Kansas State eventually was going to pay the piper. It's defense gave up a ton of yards in wins over Baylor and Texas Tech, games in which K-State was outgained by 314 yards.

In those games, though, the Wildcats reached into their bag of tricks and pulled out rabbits behind their magical mastermind of a coach.

But Oklahoma wasn't about to be fooled again. Not after last week's terrible loss, which may have yanked the Sooners from the BCS national championship picture depending on what happens down the road.

OU started re-paving that road Saturday with a dismantling of a good K-State team and it happened after the Sooners' best running back, Dominique Whaley, suffered a broken ankle on the first offensive play of the game.

The preseason No. 1 team in college football played like the Week 8 No. 1 team in college football.

And that other previously-unbeaten team on the field played like the team that was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12.

We know K-State is better than that. Much better. But Saturday's loss was an indicator that the Wildcats are nowhere near as good as the polls indicate.

They'll get another chance to prove themselves against Oklahoma State in six days. But Stillwater hasn't exactly been a proving ground for the Cowboys' opponents.

Check sports columnist Bob Lutz's blog at blogs.kansas.com/lutz. Reach him at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com.

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