MANHATTAN — For one quarter, Kansas State was unstoppable.
The rest of the game belonged to Oklahoma.
That combination led to wild plays, broken records, exciting touchdowns and a 41-31 victory for the No. 22 Sooners.
The result won’t raise many eyebrows nationally, because Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2 Big 12) is a traditional power that has won nine of its last 11 against K-State (6-5, 4-4). But the Wildcats entered Saturday as a small favorite. They had won four straight and were one of the hottest teams in the Big 12.
Had people known Tyler Lockett was going to play the game of his life — shattering school records in receiving yards (278), return yards (162), all-purpose yards (440), and tying touchdown catches (3) — the Wildcats likely would have been considered big favorites playing in front of 52,887 at Snyder Family Stadium.
Yet, despite everything K-State had going for it, this cold and windy day belonged to Oklahoma, which used a potent running attack and a steady defense to pull away.
“This was a collective loss,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “Take your pick. We just didn’t play. Oklahoma played very well. They were the better team. They played better. They coached better. They did everything better than we did today. That’s not the way we have come through the last half of the season, but it’s the way we played today.”
The difference was simple. Oklahoma was able to move the ball regardless of the weather, which brought temperatures in the teens and a strong wind that blew north to south. K-State was not.
The Sooners, behind a career-high 200 yards and two touchdowns from running back Brennan Clay and 82 rushing yards and a touchdown from quarterback Trevor Knight, moved the ball effectively throughout the game.
They lined up predominantly in spread formations and kept K-State’s defense guessing and out of position with zone-read plays. K-State’s front seven looked lost against it.
“Their whole running game was good,” defensive end Ryan Mueller said. “They ran all over us. I do not know how else to answer that. They ran the ball on us and we did not stop the run. It was extremely frustrating.”
K-State was able to move the ball, too, but only through the air and with the wind at its back. It rushed for 24 yards, and didn’t score going into the wind.
For a while, it seemed like it could win anyway. During a magical second quarter, Jake Waters, who completed 17 of 29 passes for 348 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, connected on bomb after bomb to Lockett.
There was the 48-yard touchdown pass at the start of the quarter, when K-State brilliantly stacked receivers on both sides of the field and Lockett slipped past broken coverage for an easy score. There was the 30-yard lob Waters threw to Lockett in the corner of the end zone a few plays later. And there was the in-stride strike Waters threw to Lockett for 90 yards less than four minutes before halftime.
The Sooners took a 14-0 lead, but K-State reached a 21-all tie.
Lockett had previously set K-State’s single-game record for receiving yards with 237 at Texas earlier this season, but that effort had nothing on this.
“He makes my job so easy,” Waters said of Lockett. “With how fast he is and how open he gets, he is just special.”
Added Mueller: “He is a freak. He is unbelievable. That had to be his best game. I don’t know how many total yards he had … 440? Oh my gosh. Did we have 448 total and he get the rest? It seemed like every time I looked up, he was catching the ball and taking it the distance.”
As it turned out, K-State needed Lockett — a junior receiver who was not made available to speak with media — to take it the distance a few more times.
He did most of his damage (206 yards) against Oklahoma cornerback Quentin Hayes in the first half. In the second half, the Sooners placed top defensive back Aaron Colvin on him and he wasn’t nearly as effective.
“Our defense was really great against the run,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “I thought that was the most important thing. I thought we did cover well, but they beat us with some big plays. Of course, Lockett is an excellent player and he got us on a few of those. The fact that we were able to control the line of scrimmage in the run game was a big factor.”
That made the Wildcats one-dimensional, which made life difficult on Waters trying to throw against the wind in the fourth quarter. Waters tossed both of his interceptions going toward the north end zone.
It also didn’t help that Oklahoma forced K-State to punt out of its own end zone at the start of the fourth quarter and returned a weak punt from Mark Krause to the 3, scoring a touchdown one play later.
“It was a major play in the ballgame,” Snyder said.
The true back-breaker came later, when Waters tried to hit Curry Sexton for a short gain and OU defensive back Zack Sanchez came up with an interception that he returned 74 yards for a touchdown and 41-24 lead.
“We left a lot of plays out there,” Waters said. “We had to make a couple more plays. I made those two mistakes. We did an OK job executing our plays, but there are definitely plays we want back.”
Those mistakes stripped K-State of its momentum with the regular-season finale looming at Kansas.
“Sometimes you can make mistakes in games and get away with them,” Mueller said, “and you wipe your head and say, ‘We got lucky there.’ But against a good quality team with a coach like Bob Stoops, you can’t afford to do that. That’s what we did.”