‘It’s not intimidating’: Kansas State prepares for Big 12 opener against Oklahoma

Junior quarterback Skylar Thompson runs in a touchdown during K-State's homecoming football game against OU in Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Oct. 26, 2019. The Wildcats upset the No. 5 rated Sooners with a final score of 48-41. (File photo by Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State Football prepares for a tough Big 12 Conference opening matchup with third-ranked Oklahoma this Saturday.

The Wildcats upset the Sooners 48-41 in Manhattan last season and look to win back-to-back games against Oklahoma for the first time since 1996 and 1997. The conference opener in Norman is the fifth time in the last six years the Wildcats opened Big 12 play on the road.

The bye week following a surprise loss to Arkansas State gave the Wildcats an opportunity to regroup and return to the drawing board.

“We were able to get a number of players back and so we went back into fall camp mode and worked Kansas State versus Kansas State,” head coach Chris Klieman said during the weekly press conference.

This season already shows the unpredictability of player availability. Klieman said K-State was “one player at one position” away from having to cancel the opener. The up-in-the-air nature of player availability causes his coaching staff anxiety.

K-State is a 27.5 point underdog in the opening lines for the game on Saturday. The line does not change the mentality in the locker room as Klieman pushes to have his players approach each Saturday the same.

“You’ve got to line up and play,” Klieman said. “We have to not worry about who the opponent is — and we know who it is — and more focus on us getting better at all areas offensively and defensively.”

Senior linebacker Justin Hughes said he sees it as a motivator headed into Saturday.

“It just the fuel to the fire, being another underdog, to be predicted to being beat so badly,” Hughes said. “We are going to go in there and give OU our best shot each and every down.”

The Sooners opened the season with a 48-0 win over Missouri State. Even though Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts graduate, leading the offense is another Heisman hopeful. Freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler appears to be the next head coach Lincoln Riley-guided star at the position.

“Just the fact that he is under Lincoln Riley, you know he’s going be a great player because Lincoln is as good as there is at coaching quarterbacks,” Klieman said.

Rattler went 14 for 17 for 290 yards and four touchdowns in the opener against the Bears in one half of play.

“I know just doing some research that he can beat you with his feet as well as his arm,” Klieman said. “I know he is a young player, but I’ve been so impressed with his skill set.”

Though the Oklahoma offense looks like a treat, the K-State defense is ready to compete.

“It’s not intimidating,” redshirt freshman defensive back Will Jones II said. “As we all know, they are a very good team, but as long as we lock in on our keys, we should be fine. We should be able to play anybody,”

Jones had a blocked punt, a fumble recovery and an interception in the opener.

Kickoff is at 11 a.m. Saturday in Norman, Oklahoma.