Many years ago, before Bill Snyder turned Kansas State into the football program it is today, the Wildcats played at Oklahoma every season.
It was a strange arrangement for conference rivals, but K-State preferred to accept money from Oklahoma and play in front of a packed stadium in Norman rather than host the Sooners. The deal was in place from 1988-92 and it will never be repeated, but few K-State fans will object to repeated trips to Oklahoma’s Memorial Stadium after what transpired Saturday.
The Sooners clobbered the Wildcats 55-0 in front of an empty Snyder Family Stadium, by the end, extending Oklahoma’s winning streak in Manhattan to six. Bob Stoops has never lost here as the OU coach, winning every game by double digits. Something about the Little Apple brings out the best in the Sooners. K-State hasn’t defeated OU at home since 1996.
They were all frustrating losses, but this one takes the cake. It was the most lopsided defeat in Snyder’s career, surpassing a 56-3 loss at Washington in 1991.
“All of us are embarrassed,” Snyder said. “I can’t remember being involved in a game like this since 1989, the first year that we were here, and I don’t even know that we had one this bad.”
Oklahoma led 35-0 at halftime and returned an interception for a touchdown to make it 42-0 quickly into the third quarter. Fans fled for the exits at the stadium that hosted its 24th consecutive sellout.
It was the Wildcats’ worst home shutout loss in school history, and their first shutout of any kind since a 12-0 defeat at Colorado in 1996, ending a streak of 234 games in which they scored. They hadn’t been shut out at home since 1991.
K-State is decades removed from its dark days, back when the program led college football in losses, but a 55-0 loss marked a new low. Oklahoma outgained K-State 568 yards to 110.
It was total domination.
“I did not expect that at all,” K-State defensive tackle Will Geary said. “Oklahoma just came out with a fire and we didn’t match it. Then things got out of hand.”
The No. 19 Sooners (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) looked like Big 12 title contenders a week after a shocking loss to Texas. They bounced back in a big way, leaving the Wildcats (3-3, 0-3 Big 12) in their wake. K-State has lost three straight and needs to beat the Longhorns on the road next week to avoid falling below .500.
This is K-State’s first three-game losing streak since 2013, when the Wildcats started 2-4 and rallied to an 8-5 finish. Perhaps Snyder can coach this group to a similar turnaround. But it won’t be easy.
“This is probably the most significant and major challenge that any of us have ever met,” Snyder said. “It will truly define the character of each and every one of us in terms of how we respond.”
Everything that could go wrong went wrong on Saturday. Starting quarterback Joe Hubener completed 4 of 14 passes for 39 yards and two interceptions. He came close to throwing a third pick and losing a fumble. He also overthrew Deante Burton on what could have been a touchdown pass in the first quarter when the receiver streaked downfield wide open.
It was a nightmare performance, but Snyder took responsibility. Oklahoma’s defense entered the game ranked 95th nationally against the run, allowing an average of more than 190 rushing yards. Texas hammered OU on the ground. Many expected K-State to exploit the same weakness. Instead, it tried to throw on its first six plays.
“I am not a game planner, but if you saw the game last week I would have run the ball,” OU defensive end Matt Dimon said. “That is what we thought they were going to do, but they came out slinging it, they had the wind. I didn’t get a run block until the eighth or ninth play. It was surprising, but I’ll take what they give us.”
K-State went three-and-out on its first two drives and trailed 14-0 before it attempted a run.
“That is what the coaches thought we could do,” Snyder said. “So that is what we tried to do.”
Hubener was eventually pulled for Kody Cook late in the second half. Cook struggled, too, completing 1 of 8 passes for 6 yards and an interception.
K-State’s defense was also in shambles. Its defensive backs were no match for Oklahoma receivers Sterling Shepard, Dede Westbrook and Neal Durron.
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was sensational, completing 20 of 27 passes for 282 yards and five touchdowns. Shepard was his favorite target – 83 yards and two touchdowns. Westbrook had five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Mayfield was so hot that he had 235 yards and five touchdowns at halftime. K-State’s defense, which was down five starters – Dante Barnett, Danzel McDaniel, Elijah Lee, Duke Shelley and Kaleb Prewett – at times, was completely outclassed.
“The execution,” Stoops said, “was maybe as good as we have had.”
Outside of two sacks from Geary and promising coverage from Shelley, a freshman corner, there were no positives for K-State.
“We just had too many mistakes,” left tackle Cody Whitehair said. “We had interceptions, we had missed blocks, we had missed tackles, anything and everything went not our way.”
There weren’t even fans waiting to cheer them off the field.
“If I was sitting up there, I probably would have left early, too,” Snyder said. “We didn’t do anything to keep them in the stands.”
Oklahoma was favored by less than a touchdown and the Sooners faced a nine hour travel delay that prevented their chartered flight from landing in Manhattan until midnight, less than 13 hours before kickoff.
Yet, K-State played like the weary traveler.
It will be fascinating to see where the Wildcats go from here. They improbably pushed No. 16 Oklahoma State and No. 3 TCU to the brink with an injured roster, leading both games in the fourth quarter and losing by a total of nine points.
They have proven they can play with the Big 12’s best, but this loss revealed the other end of the spectrum.