After years of heartbreak, Kansas State turned Memorial Stadium into a place of joy Saturday night.
The Wildcats defeated Oklahoma 24-19 for their first road win over the Sooners since 1997 and their first win over the Sooners anywhere since 2003.
It was a convincing victory that validates No. 15 K-State as a legitimate Big 12 championship contender and will push it up in the national rankings. Before Saturday, the No. 6 Sooners were viewed as the class of the conference and practically invincible at home, going 78-3 since Bob Stoops took over in 1999.
But the Wildcats used a strong defensive performance, a few hard runs from John Hubert and plenty of poise from Collin Klein to hand them their fourth loss of the Stoops era in front of a sellout crowd of 85,276 and a national television audience.
“We were really good against a very quality football team,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said.
It will go down as one of Snyder’s finest regular-season accomplishments, and a signature effort from his team.
Not only did Snyder best his former assistant for the second time in nine tries, the Wildcats (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) didn’t need a fluke for it to happen. They were simply the better team.
“To beat somebody as good as this Oklahoma team really does mean something special to them,” Snyder added. “I think they feel good about it, but they also handled themselves.… It’s not like they’ve never been there before.”
K-State has come oh so close to breaking through against highly-ranked opponents since Snyder came out of retirement, narrowly falling at Oklahoma State last year and pushing Arkansas until the end in the Cotton Bowl. But it was a more determined team this time.
The Wildcats proved it in the second quarter.
That’s when K-State’s defense, which has been picked on by the elite offenses in past years and allowed 58 points and 690 yards to Oklahoma a year ago, flexed its muscles against the Sooners (2-1, 0-1) on two key plays.
The first came when OU quarterback Landry Jones tried to hit receiver Trey Metoyer with a pass across the middle. As he went up to catch the ball, linebacker Arthur Brown met him with a forceful hit to the chest that sent him hard to the ground without the ball. It took Metoyer a few moments to catch his breath and exit the field, and once he did, K-State got even more aggressive.
On the next play, senior linebacker Justin Tuggle hit Jones from behind in front of his end zone, causing a fumble. Jarell Childs picked up the loose ball and carried it into the end zone for the first touchdown. Quite the change from last year, when K-State couldn’t pressure Jones.
“What we did all week was work on trying to flush him out of the pocket,” defensive end Adam Davis said. “We know he’s not good with pressure. If we get to his blind side, he’s going to start getting jittery and try to move out of the pocket and scoot up and stuff. We really tried to cause pressure and get after him.”
As heavy underdogs, most figured K-State needed a touchdown on special teams or defense to pull the upset, and they had it. It led 7-3 with 12:20 remaining in the first half.
Oklahoma tried to strike back quickly, and it appeared as though it would by using passes over the middle to drive all the way to the one-yard line. Backup quarterback Blake Bell, from Wichita, came into the game to charge straight ahead for a touchdown, but he fumbled the snap out of the shotgun and Ty Zimmerman jumped on the loose ball.
Zimmerman had a big day. He also made an interception in the second half. He helped K-State force three turnovers.
“The number on thing that’s obvious is turnovers,” Stoops said. “It’s just bad football.”
It could have been worse. Zimmerman dropped a sure interception in the second quarter. K-State’s entire defense played well.
“We were definitely motivated from last year,” Tuggle said. “We wanted to go out there and play fast, run to the ball and tackle well. We did that pretty well today. When we play fast we help our offense move the ball. That’s what we’ve got to do for the rest of the season.”
The Wildcats then answered with a field goal and went into halftime leading 10-6. It was the first time Oklahoma failed to score a touchdown in the first half since a home loss to TCU in 2005.
Oklahoma took the lead with five minutes to go in the third quarter on an 88-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a short Bell touchdown run, and the Sooners appeared to have lots of momentum because the drive started after an official’s review changed a Jones fumble that would have allowed K-State to seize control into an incomplete pass.
But K-State didn’t allow that to impact the game. Klein, who added steam to his Heisman Trophy hype by throwing for 149 yards, running for 79 and scoring a touchdown, led the Wildcats on a touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter to take a 17-3 lead. Then Hubert, who continually broke tackles and rushed for 130 yards, ran in a nine-yard score with 7:27 to go to put them ahead 24-13.
Oklahoma scored a touchdown and made things close in the end, but K-State was able to run out the clock thanks to a 12-yard completion from Klein to Thompson on third down.
When the clock hit zero, K-State players celebrated with their fans in the end zone. For the first time in 15 years, they partied at Memorial Stadium.
“We have a lot of guys, and even myself included, that have been here long enough when things weren’t this way,” Klein said. “We don’t want to go back. We know what it feels like now.”