The entirely undermanned Kansas State Wildcats stormed back in the second half from a 21-point deficit Saturday afternoon to upset the No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners, 38-35.
After building up what should have been an insurmountable lead 35-14 lead in the third quarter, the Sooners finished the game looking scared and overwhelmed. Frankly, OU played like a poorly coached team on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, touted quarterback Spencer Rattler showed many moments of brilliance in completing 30 of 41 passes for 387 yards and four touchdowns. They were overshadowed by three interceptions, including a poorly thrown ball on OU’s final possession that ended the Sooners’ faint hopes of a comeback.
Of potentially greater concern for coach Lincoln Riley and his staff, the OU offensive line got worked over by KSU edge rusher Wyatt Hubert and the rest of the defensive front. The Wildcats sacked Rattler three times, and OU’s QB frequently found himself flushed from the pocket when dropping back. Holding penalties also wiped out gains or put the Sooners in the hole too often.
Meanwhile, running back Seth McGowan fumbled in OU territory, which offset a lot of good work done rushing for 78 yards and a score on 13 carries.
On defense, the Sooners seemed to have KSU bottled up, making the collapse in the second half all the more befuddling. The Wildcats broke off big plays in the passing game to charge back into contention. QB Skylar Thompson hit RB Deuce Vaughn on a catch-and-run for 77 yards in the third quarter. H-back Justin Gardner had a 78-yard reception. Later, Thompson and Vaughn combined for a 35-yard hook-up to secure a key third down. Thompson had already connected with receiver Chabastin Taylor in the first half for 39 yards and a score.
Thompson completed 18 of 25 attempts for 334 yards and a touchdown for the game.
The Sooners’ most damaging gaffe probably came on special teams. In the fourth quarter with OU nursing a 35-28 lead, KSU defensive back AJ Parker charged through the line to block a Reeves Mundschau punt. The Wildcats recovered the ball at the OU 38 yard line. Vaughn soon took a handoff 38 yards past a befuddled group of Sooner defenders for the game-tying TD.
So what did Sooner Nation learn from this debacle? Rattler may be forcing too many throws. The offensive line doesn’t appear to be as strong as it was billed to be. OU hasn’t figured out its coverage issues. It would be nice if the Sooners could force a turnover at some point.
Most importantly, Riley has some work to do with this team from a mental standpoint. You could see it in the carelessness early in the game and the panic later on. Getting his players’ minds right might be his biggest challenge going forward.
It’s also just a weird, weird year thanks to COVID-19. Therefore, weird, weird stuff is going to happen. That doesn’t make this loss any less concerning, but be prepared for more chaos to come this season.