With a victory against K-State this Saturday, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops would become the winningest in the Sooners’ storied program. With win No. 158, Stoops would pass Barry Switzer, an Oklahoma legend. Ironically enough, Stoops spent his first year as a full-time coach with K-State. From 1989 to 1995, Stoops served as defensive backs coach and later as co-defensive coordinator under Bill Snyder.
The Sooners have amassed a pretty impressive season to date. At 8-2, their only losses came at the hands of Baylor, when the undefeated Bears beat them 41-12, and the Texas Longhorns back in Week 6, 36-20. The Wildcats fell to the Longhorns in their conference opener as well.
Stoops downgraded the importance of this weekend’s game.
“Winning there would be great for our season and this season for all of those reasons,” Stoops said to Tulsa’s Channel 8 news respondent John Laws. “Outside of that, Coach Snyder and I aren’t going to play. We have got teams and staff and a bunch of people working with us and it will be one team against the other.”
Historically, the Sooners have the edge. Stoops possesses a 7-2 record in matchups with the Wildcats, including 4-0 in Manhattan. The K-State defense, who seem to have finally overcome the jitters in these past four weeks, need to step their game up against the rush. Last week against TCU, the Wildcats held the Horned Frogs to 111 rushing yards while the Sooners put up huge numbers against Iowa State. On just 44 attempts, Oklahoma tallied an incredible 405 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. At one point during the second half, the Sooners had three snaps account for 204 yards.
“They have three tremendous running backs and you have to add the quarterback to that,” Snyder said at his weekly press conference. “They are all very fine athletes. The defining factor in addition to that is they have five returning offensive line starters that are all big, physical, athletic guys. They do a nice job up front to make some of those things happen.“
However, putting up those kinds of numbers is going to be difficult. In their last six games, the Wildcats have held their opponents to less than 125 net rushing yards. This includes the filthy four-running back nuclear arsenal of the Baylor Bears. Baylor ran 57 times for 340 yards and five touchdowns in its game last week against Texas Tech. K-State held the Bears to 145 yards on 37 attempts.
An area of concern for Oklahoma: starting quarterback Blake Bell left last week’s contest in the second quarter with an injury and will not play Saturday. However, backup Trevor Knight stepped in and stepped up against the Cyclones. Knight filled Bell’s shoes fully, completing 8-of-14 pass attempts for 61 yards and a staggering 123 yards on the ground, including a touchdown, on just 10 carries.
With Knight illustrating that he is more than capable, and a third quarterback who is waiting anxiously for his time on the field, K-State could see a two-quarterback attack on Saturday.
“The good thing is you can only get one on the field at a time,” Snyder said. “I say that with reservation that you could potentially see two. We have always known Bell to be a guy that can run the football. They put in the youngster last week, and he ran the football so very well. He had one of those long-yardage plays for a touchdown. They are all good.”
Another piece to the puzzle? Oklahoma’s special teams. Senior wide receiver Jalen Saunders was named Big 12’s Co-Special Teams Player of the Week last Monday alongside K-State kicker Jack Cantele. With Iowa State leading 10-3 in the second quarter, Saunders outmaneuvered Cyclone defenders into the end zone on a 91-yard punt return. After that score, the Sooners went on to score 38 straight, destroying the Cyclones’ hope of snapping a 15-game losing streak to the Sooners.
The game this weekend will be a strong component of bowl placement. With Texas Tech and K-State nipping at each other’s heels, and Oklahoma struggling to maintain their position, wins and losses this weekend could weigh heavily on this year’s bowl season.