By Michael Kinney
NORMAN – Oklahoma knows Kansas State well. They have seen up close and personal what the Wildcats can do to opponents with their physician brand of fundamental football.
So the Sooners should not have been surprised when the Wildcats walked into The Palace on the Prairie and proceeded to punch them in the mouth. What was surprising is that OU had no answer as they fell 41-34 in front of their home crowd Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
“Hats off to Kansas State, they came in and earned the victory in every way, there wasn’t any fluke about it,” OU coach Brent Venables said. “They whooped us in every part of it and out-coached us.”
Oklahoma has won 29 of its last 31 home games. Both losses were to Kansas State. In the past 15 years, the Sooners have dropped three Big 12 Conference openers, which were all at the hands of the Wildcats.
“There were 84,000 here, I didn’t get to appreciate that in 2020,” Kansas State coach Chris Klieman said. “I got to appreciate that tonight. We’ve got to build on this and those guys are going to enjoy the heck out of it. Don’t ask me about Texas Tech, I know they beat Texas, we’ll worry about that tomorrow. We’re going to have some fun.”
With KSU (3-1) leading by seven late in the fourth quarter, the night essentially came down to one play. Oklahoma’s defense had forced Kansas State into a 3rd and 16 with just 2:39 on the clock. If they got the stop, it would almost undoubtedly force the Wildcats to punt and give the Sooners a chance to tie or win the game.
However, KSU quarterback Adrian Martinez was not going to let the game slip away from his team. The senior dropped back to pass and escaped the OU pass rush before scrambling 55 yards downfield to the OU 4-yard line.
Two plays later Martinez scored his fifth touchdown of the night on a one yard dive up the middle. He then gave the OU fans a slight bow as the Cats went up by 14 points.
“At the end of the game at third and 16, we had to make a play and get off the field, so we had a design spy, that obviously ended up being a poor call and broke our back at the most critical time,” Venables said.
With just 1:58 on the clock, it was Dillion Gabriel’s turn to respond, and he answered with a touchdown pass to Brayden Willis. However, they used up valuable time and were left with only 35 seconds left and were forced to go for an onside kick.
The onside kick attempt went directly to a KSU player and that sealed the contest.
“It’s hard for me to just realize this moment. Even at the end of the game when they were driving, I was screaming at our defense to finish until it says zero on the clock, even though the game was probably over. It’s a tremendous feeling and I have a lot to be thankful for,” Martinez said. “It was the first game my parents came to this season, so to have their support and the team’s support meant a lot to me.”
Along with his five scores, Martinez added 234 yards passing and 148 yards on the ground. Deuce Vaugh also broke the 100-yard mark with 116.
As a team, the Wildcats posted 509 total yards, which is the most the Sooners have allowed this season.
Gabriel threw for 330 yards on and four touchdowns on 26-of-39 passing. The redshirt junior has thrown for 11 TDs on the season and has yet to toss an interception.
Eric Gray posted his third straight 100-yard rushing performance with 114 on 16 carries.
Gray also led the Sooners with seven receptions. Marvin Mims had four catches for 89 yards.
However, the one stat the coaches and players focused on were the flags that were thrown. The Sooners ended the night with 11 penalties for 87 yards. That was almost twice as many as the Wildcats’ 6 for 37.
“We had 11 penalties to their six with three of them on the defense for first downs,” Venables said. “They stayed on the field on third downs and that’s a recipe for disaster.”
Before Oklahoma fans had a chance to get settled in their seats, Kansas State had grabbed a 14-0 lead. The Wildcats scored on both drives to start the first quarter and did it by utilizing a balanced attack led by quarterback Adrian Martinez who had a hand in both touchdowns.
The Sooners didn’t find any success offensively until their third possession of the game when Dillion Gabriel hit Theo Wease for a 56 yard TD pass.
Gabriel came back in the second quarter a heaved a 50 yard scoring strike to Mims to tie the game at 14-14.
Martinez added another touchdown and Kansas State took a 24-17 lead into halftime.
The Wildcats continued to pound the rock down the Sooner’s throat in the third quarter. Martinez was able to complete enough passes downfield to keep the OU defense honest.
However, Kansas State had a chance to push their advantage to 10 points when Martinize seemingly found an open receiver in the endzone. But Billy Bowman laid a vicious hit on the receiver to dislodge the ball and force a field goal instead.
Oklahoma trailed 27-20 heading into the fourth quarter.
“There was definitely frustration. It’s a loss and we don’t lose a lot here,” OU linebacker Deshaun White said. “Our message for our team was that it hurt a lot, and nobody likes to lose, but the biggest thing for us is that everything we want is still in front of us and we just have to respond. It’s always defined by how you respond, so I think that’s the most important part about the entire situation. If we respond the right way, then things can still go our way, but if we don’t, nobody’s going to care about us.”
Since 2006 Oklahoma has lost its Big 12 opener five times. On each of the previous four occasions (2006, ’07, ’12 and ’20) the Sooners went on to win the Big 12 championship.
Oklahoma (3-1) will be on the road this weekend when they travel to Texas for their first of back-to-back games in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area. They will face TCU Saturday, Oct. 1.
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