MANHATTAN — Kansas State didn’t let last year’s game against Oklahoma slip away until the second half, but the first quarter was littered with signs of the blowout defeat to come.
Behind quarterback Landry Jones, the Sooners jumped out to an early 14-0 lead and set the tone for the afternoon. Sure, K-State battled back to take a 17-14 lead early in the second quarter, but the comeback was short-lived. The Wildcats spent so much energy getting back into the game that nine quick points from Oklahoma before halftime felt like a knockout blow. The Sooners dominated the rest of the way and won 58-17.
Looking back, K-State quarterback Collin Klein knows exactly what went wrong.
“We just quit making plays,” Klein said. “We just didn’t get it done. We quit moving the ball. They score some quick points and it puts the pressure on you even more. It just kind of snowballed on us from there.”
Klein tried to bring his team back with his arm last year, but was unable to do so. He connected on eight of 16 passes for 58 yards and was outclassed by Jones, who threw for 505 yards and five touchdowns.
Oklahoma offensive lineman Lane Johnson is expecting a strong early push from K-State on Saturday in Norman, Okla.
“K-State should have a bad taste in their mouth,” Johnson said. “They’re going to be coming in firing on all cylinders.”
Of course, K-State might have a little more room for error this time around.
Though the Wildcats rank last in the Big 12 with 203 passing yards per game, Klein’s completion percentage is up to 72.9 percent from 57.3 percent last season. He has also thrown for 609 yards and five touchdowns on 59 attempts.
“I am seeing things a little better and quicker,” Klein said. “I would say there is a little bit of maturity in there. I think my feet have gotten quite a little bit better as far as making sure that my body and feet are in position to make some of those throws. That’s improved.”
Klein’s improvement has come in three home games that K-State won by an average of nearly 32 points, but Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops can see the differences.
“You can tell it’s been more of a focus in their first three games,” Stoops said. “They’re throwing it more and he’s throwing it well. That’s not surprising as he progresses and gets older. He’s a talented guy.”
With an improved passing attack, maybe K-State could fight its way back from a deficit on Saturday. But the No. 15 Wildcats don’t want to take any chances this time around.
Under Stoops, the No. 6 Sooners are 7-0 at home in Big 12 openers, 14-0 at home against ranked opponents and 44-2 at home against conference teams. A slow start could put the Wildcats in a hole they can’t dig out of.
“It is always important for any football team, us or anybody else. It’s just vital to do it,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “The better start you get off to the better chance you have to play a complete ballgame.”
Heisman contender — Klein has emerged as a popular darkhorse contender for the Heisman Trophy. Several respected news outlets and websites currently rank him in the top 10 of their weekly Heisman polls. Klein can gain even more attention, and build a legitimate argument for the award, by leading K-State to a victory over Oklahoma on Saturday. The game will be televised nationally in primetime on FOX.
Not that Klein is focused on that.
“It’s an honor, but at this point in the game we’ve just got to focus on what’s most important and what we can control and that’s on Saturday,” Klein said. “… Whatever happens at the end of the season happens, and I will be very thankful.”
Status report — Bill Snyder said linebacker Arthur Brown, center B.J. Finney, running back Angelo Pease and tight end Andre McDonald will all be available to play against Oklahoma. Brown and Finney missed portions of the North Texas game with injuries. Pease and McDonald did not take snaps with the offense.
Pelger honored — K-State junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger was named Sports Imports/AVCA National Volleyball Player of the Week on Tuesday. Pelger is the first Wildcat to win the award since Dawn Cady in 1999. The No. 11 K-State volleyball team is off to its best start ever at 12-0.