Round two: K-State opens Big 12 play as underdogs at Oklahoma

Then-senior defensive end Reggie Walker and then-sophomore defensive end Wyatt Hubert tackle Oklahoma's quarterback Jalen Hurts during the Wildcats 48-41 upset victory over the Sooners at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Oct. 25, 2019. (File photo by Sabrina Cline | Collegian Media Group)

Last season, Kansas State delivered the Oklahoma Sooners a 48-41 upset in Manhattan — one of the biggest shockers of the 2019 college football season. This year, the Wildcats open Big 12 play against the Sooners on the road, aiming to defeat the Sooners for the first time in consecutive years since 1997, which was part of a five-game win streak over the Sooners.

Saturday’s matchup is the third straight year and the fifth time since 2015 that K-State opened Big 12 play on the road.

K-State is coming off a bye week after a tough 35-31 loss to Arkansas State in their home opener. The defense allowed 498 total yards, including multiple trick plays, leading to touchdowns for the Red Wolves.

The Wildcats need to clean up their penalty issues after drawing eight flags for 85 yards in the season opener. Those uncharacteristic penalties could be attributed to a lack of experience and the loss of practice time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

K-State struggled to establish the run game in their loss to Arkansas State. The Wildcats punched it in twice, but were held to 91 rush yards on 39 attempts.

For the second consecutive game, K-State remained under 100 rushing yards. Previously, this occurred at the Liberty Bowl defeat against Navy, where the rushing attack remained at 46 yards.

Freshman running back Deuce Vaughn made his first touchdown as a Wildcat last week and led all K-State rushers with 47 yards on 12 carries. The ground game will be crucial to establish for the Wildcats — a team averaging 178.0 rush yards per game in 2019.

Senior quarterback Skylar Thompson showed he can be a threat in the air, throwing for 259 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Arkansas State. The offense often fizzled out, going 1-for-11 on third-down conversions and finished with 21 first downs throughout the game.

The Sooners dominated in their opening game, defeating FCS opponent Missouri State 48-0 on Sept. 12. The Oklahoma defense held the Bears to just 135 yards of total offense and only seven first downs.

Granted, it is only one game against an inferior opponent, but Oklahoma looks poised to make another run at the College Football Playoff in January. The Sooners made it to the CFP four times in the last six years, but failed to reach the National Championship game each time.

Players to Watch

Junior wide receiver Chabastin Taylor led K-State receivers with four receptions for 98 yards, a career-high for Taylor. It is critical for K-State for another threat to emerge at wide receiver to keep pace with Oklahoma’s quick offense.

Redshirt freshman defensive back Will Jones II performed well in his first career start against Arkansas State with an interception and a blocked punt. He became the first Wildcat to block a kick and catch an interception in a game since 2011.

OU freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler continues the lineage of great quarterbacks under head coach Lincoln Riley. In his first start for the Sooners, he threw for 290 yards and four touchdowns in just the first half.

The Wildcats are a 27.5 point underdog heading into Norman. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Fox.