You have to go back to Oct. 27, 2018, to see the last time the Oklahoma Sooners defeated Kansas State in football. With it being Hall of Fame Weekend in Manhattan, along with the return of quarterback Skylar Thompson, it seemed like the perfect mix for K-State to pull off the upset once again.
In a tough-fought game on both sides, No. 6 Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) managed to squeeze out a tight 37-31 victory over the Wildcats (3-2, 0-2 Big 12) at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Not much was known on Thompson’s status for the game before kickoff, but on the first drive of the game, the veteran quarterback trotted out to attempt to dethrone the Sooners for the third year in a row.
“I tell you what, I was super excited and to hear the crowd roar,” Thompson said to K-State Athletics. “When they announced my name at the start of the first possession, a lot of thoughts ran through my head at that moment. It was the loudest I’d ever heard the stadium and it was special.”
Thompson, who suffered a season-ending injury this past season, made the decision to return for one more season this year after the NCAA granted players an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thompson suffered another injury this year in week two against Southern Illinois, putting his status for the rest of the season up in the air.
There was speculation about when Thompson would return, with the K-State coaching staff making it clear earlier in the week that they did not think he would play against the Sooners on Saturday. However, Thompson made a statement when deciding to return this week, completing 29 of 41 passes while helping K-State out-gain Oklahoma in total yardage, 420 to 392.
“He’s a leader of men, he’s our guy, and he’s somebody I’m going to ride behind forever,” sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn said. “We’re so happy for him.”
Vaughn was another factor in Saturday’s game — as usual — with 10 receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown to go along with 15 carries for 51 yards.
“I’m proud of the effort our guys gave,” K-State head coach Chris Klieman said. “If we continue with that kind of passion, continue to believe, and get better during this off-week and start to heal up a little bit, we have a great story we can still write.”
Vaughn’s 10 receptions are the most by a Wildcat in the past three years, while Phillip Brooks hauled in six catches for 55 yards and a touchdown of his own. Along with Thompson, there was another senior that emerged in a big role in Saturday’s game — wide receiver Landry Weber.
Weber managed to catch four passes for 43 yards, also scoring the first touchdown of his career on Saturday.
“I’m just trying to contribute in any way I can,” Weber said. “It was good that I was able to make some big plays. I just wish I could’ve made that one big play on fourth down, but unfortunately (it was ruled an incomplete pass), but I felt really good today, and I was really proud of all of our receivers today.”
Junior receiver Malik Knowles continued to struggle in the receiving game, dropping a few passes, but did manage to return a kickoff for the second week in a row. Knowles took back a kick 93 yards late in the game to close the scoring gap to only six points.
Defensively the Wildcats struggled as Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns. A big contribution from two Sooners running backs helped OU take down the Wildcats as Kennedy Brooks and Jeremiah Hall found the endzone, combining for three rushing touchdowns.
Big 12 officiating was brought into question during the game after an onside kick that was recovered by the Wildcats was overturned late in the third quarter with K-State only down by 10 points.
Kicker Ty Zentner recovered his own kick, but after the referees determined that the play was going to stand, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley challenged that Zentner kicked the ball twice. Upon the second review of the play, the referees determined that Zentner had kicked the ball twice and that OU would get possession of the ball.
After the game, Klieman gave his thoughts on the double review.
“They reviewed it and missed the review, and then went back and reviewed it. I really don’t know,” Klieman said. “I’m frustrated like a lot of K-Staters out there. Didn’t get a great explanation but they reviewed it and then they didn’t see anything. Everything was clean, then they said they challenged it, another review. I didn’t know you could review a review. Evidently, you can. I don’t know what that was, but must have had some really good evidence that I didn’t see.”
K-State now falls to 3-2 on the season and 0-2 in Big 12 play, riding a two-game losing streak heading into a bye week. The poor start to Big 12 play does not have players like Skylar Thompson discouraged, however.
“We’re hungry and we’ve got a fire inside of us that I don’t know if we’ve truly had since I’ve been here,” Thompson said. “We know we’re a very good football team. A few losses, you never want to lose, but we’re going to continue to pound this thing. This program has been built on adversity. We have a lot of season left, and that’s lit a fire inside of all of us. We’re excited for the next opportunity.”
K-State’s next game is set for Oct. 16 at Bill Snyder Stadium against the Iowa State Cyclones (3-2, 1-1 Big 12).