NORMAN – As we all know, the Sooners are sadly good for one inexplicable loss every year, usually to a lower-level conference foe. This year, they decided to get that game out of the way up front, blowing a 21-point late third quarter lead to drop Saturday’s conference opener to Kansas State by a score of 38-35. As K-State losses go, this one was a classic – a game dominated by the Sooners for nearly three full quarters before a couple of cross-country plays, a couple of turnovers, and a blocked punt flipped it on its head. A bunch of penalties didn’t help, either. The Sooners once again failed to create a turnover on defense while giving up four of their own.
While there was plenty of blame to go around for the collapse, freshman QB Spencer Rattler was mostly outstanding. Through three quarters, Rattler was an astounding 26 of 29 with four TDs and two interceptions, one on a tipped ball. But, the rest of the way, he was an ineffective 4 of 12 with a pick that clinched the game for KSU. Much of that was due to poor offensive line play.
Austin Stogner tore up the Wildcats, rampaging for 83 yards on five catches. Marvin Mims had five for 31 yards and two TDs, while Charleston Rambo had five for 30, Theo Wease had four for 43, and Drake Stoops had three for 93 and a TD. The Sooner rushing attack was not what it needs to be, again due largely to sub-par offensive line play. Seth McGowan led all Sooner rushers with 73 yards and a score on 13 carries. T.J. Pledger also had 13 carries, for 44 yards.
The Sooners took the opening kickoff and moved to the Kansas State 34 in five plays. However, Rattler’s second down pass was intercepted off of a deflection at the line of scrimmage to end the threat. KSU went three and out and punted to the Sooners at their own 17. A 23-yard pass from Rattler to Stogner moved it out to the Sooner 42, and a 13-yard catch for Stogner three plays later gave the Sooners a first down at the Wildcat 39, and a personal foul moved it to the 24. Six plays later, Rattler hit Mims for the TD from 11 yards out on third and 10, and the Sooners led 7-0 with 5:29 to play in the first quarter.
After another KSU three and out, the Sooners took over on their own 26. A 20-yard pass to Brayden Willis and a 13-yard run from Pledger put the ball at the KSU 49. After a series of penalties, one of which nullified a 32-yard gain, OU moved backwards and faced third and 15 from their own 46. McGowan ran for 11, then Rattler converted fourth and four with an 11-yard pass to Wease. On the next play, which was also the first play of the second quarter, Rattler hit Drake Stoops at the one-yard line, and Stoops muscled it in from there for the TD and a 14-0 lead with 14:50 to play in the second quarter.
KSU picked up their initial first down of the game on the ensuing possession, on a Sooner penalty, but got nothing more and punted the Sooners back to their own 21. Three plays later, Rattler was picked off again on a deep ball down the right side. KSU took over on their own 35. They turned the miscue into points a few plays later when, on third and 18, they hit a 39-yard TD pass to make it 14-7 with 5:10 to play in the second quarter.
The Sooners would answer with a 10-play, 75-yard TD drive. The scoring play was a nine-yard pass from Rattler to Mims, and the Sooner lead was 21-7 with only 44 seconds to play in the second quarter. That would be the halftime score.
At the half, the Sooners had outgained KSU 288-98 and had 17 first downs to the Wildcats’ four. Other than the one long pass that led to the score, the Sooner defense had stifled KSU’s offense all day.
The second half started with a pair of KSU three-and-outs sandwiched around the Sooners turning it over on downs when they couldn’t convert a QB sneak on fourth and one from the KSU 43. Beginning from their own 13, the Sooners moved 87 yards for another TD in only five plays. A 29-yard pass to Stogner got things started, then a face mask moved it 15 yards further. Rattler and Wease connected for 14, then McGowan ran for four to the KSU 21. From there, Rattler hit Jeremiah Hall for the score, and the Sooner lead was 28-7 with 6:35 to play in the third quarter. It looked at that point like OU would cruise from there. And, of course, that’s when things started to go sideways.
KSU would answer quickly, with a coverage bust leading to a 77-yard pass play to the Sooner one-yard line on the first snap after the ensuing kickoff. The Wildcats would score two plays later and it was 28-14 with 5:00 to play in the third quarter.
On the ensuing Sooner possession, a pass interference penalty on KSU moved the ball to the OU 43. Three plays later, Rattler hit Stoops again, this time for 51 yards to the Wildcat five-yard line. McGowan took it in from there, and it was 35-14 OU with 2:46 to play in the third quarter. Nothing good would happen after that.
Another busted coverage would lead to a 78-yard KSU pass play on the ensuing possession, and KSU was knocking on the door at the OU two-yard line. They scored on the next play, and it was 35-21 with 1:36 to go in the third quarter. Rattler hit Rambo for 17 yards on the first play of the next possession, but on the following play, a KSU defender put his helmet on the ball and popped it out of McGowan’s hands, and the Wildcats recovered at the OU 31. A personal foul pushed KSU back into their own territory, but three plays later, on third and seven, the Wildcats connected on a 35-yard pass play to the OU 15. Four plays later, KSU converted a fourth and one from the OU six, and two plays after that, they scored from four yards out, and it was 35-28 with 12:28 to play in the game.
The Sooners picked up a couple of first downs on the ensuing possession but stalled and were forced to punt from their own 45. The punt, predictably, was blocked. Two plays later the game was tied on a 38-yard TD run with 8:17 to play in the game.
After an OU punt, KSU moved to the Sooner 36, then scored on another coverage bust. The play was called back for illegal man downfield, however, and KSU ultimately took the lead on a 50-yard field goal with 4:32 to play in the game.
The Sooners would not threaten from there. The ensuing three-and-out featured a holding penalty and a sack that was negated by defensive holding, and OU punted the ball back to KSU with 2:49 to play and only one time out. The OU defense stopped the Wildcats on three plays, and KSU punted the Sooners to their own 24 with 49 seconds to play. Rattler threw incomplete on first down, then threw a pick on the next play to seal the KSU victory.
As usual, the punditry says the Sooners’ shot at the CFP is already done, this time only two games into the season. As usual, it’s way too early to say that. If that’s true in any season, it might be this weird, virus-shortened campaign, but all of that remains to be seen. No point in panicking just yet.
The Big 12 is certainly available for the taking as usual, but things will need to improve. If the Sooners play the way they did the first two and a half quarters against KSU, they can beat anyone. If they play the way they did the final quarter and a half, anyone can beat them. One thing is clear, though, is that Rattler is a special player, and with some experience under his belt will be a load for opposing defenses for the next couple of years.
The Sooners try to bounce back from this setback with a visit to Ames, Iowa and the Iowa State Cyclones next Saturday night at 6:30. ISU is allowing fans for this game, so your truly will be in attendance for game number 372 in a row. See you there.