Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sooners snap Wildcats’ win streak

Tyler Lockett had the game of his life Saturday.

It still wasn’t enough for Kansas State to come away with a victory against No. 22 Oklahoma.

Staff photos by Sarah MidgordenKansas State receiver Curry Sexton reacts as Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez races to the end zone for a 74-yard interception for touchdown in the fourth quarter Saturday. The Wildcats lost 41-31.

Despite Lockett breaking the single-game records for receiving and all-purpose yards, a span of just 68 seconds in the fourth quarter proved too costly to overcome, as the Wildcats lost 41-31 on a frigid afternoon at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, snapping K-State’s four-game win streak.

Leading 27-24 in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma delivered a pair of knockout punches that led to back-to-back touchdowns — and the Sooners’ potent offense didn’t have much to do with either of the scores.

K-State held the Sooners and forced a punt, but got pinned inside its 5-yard line in the early stages of the fourth quarter. Unable to convert a first down, the Wildcats then had to punt. But punter Mark Krause, who had been among the Big 12’s best this season, lofted a kick that died in the wind and only went 30 yards. The shallow punt allowed OU’s Jalen Saunders to field the return on the run and take it back 30 yards to the 3, setting up an easy Sooners’ score one play later to extend their lead to 34-24 with 12:55 to play.

“First off, we backed ourselves up and didn’t do anything about getting off the goal line,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said of the offensive series that led to the short punt. “So part of it is offense, but we hit the ball poorly and covered it poorly. All three of those things added to the problem.”

The Wildcats looked like they were going to answer on the ensuing possession after Lockett returned the kickoff 46 yards and was awarded an extra 15 yards on an OU personal foul, putting the ball at the Sooners’ 38-yard line.

Quarterback Jake Waters completed a 6-yard pass to Lockett on first down, followed by an incomplete pass on second. Then on third-and-4, Waters took the snap and fired a quick out intended for Curry Sexton that was picked off by Zack Sanchez and returned 74 yards for another touchdown, giving the Sooners an insurmountable 41-24 lead with 11:47 to play.

“It was not a good 68 seconds, to say the least,” Snyder said.

K-State (6-5, 4-4 Big 12) did score on its next possession, a 1-yard run by Waters to cap a 12-play, 55-yard drive with 6:10 to play, but it was too little, too late for the Wildcats, who close out the regular season next Saturday at rival Kansas.

The fourth-quarter breakdowns soured a record-breaking day for Lockett, who caught 12 passes for 278 yards and touchdowns of 48, 30 and 90 yards — breaking his own mark that he set in another 10-point loss at Texas earlier this season. The junior also finished with a single-game record 440 all-purpose yards, breaking the mark set by Darren Sproles in 2004.

“That’s like video game stats,” K-State linebacker Blake Slaughter said of Lockett’s numbers. “He’s unreal, and it speaks for itself. He’s a guy that has a lot of talent, a lot of care and a lot of discipline. You put all those together and he’s hard to stop.”

In turn, Waters completed 17 of 29 passes for a career-high 348 yards and three scores, to go along with two interceptions. The Waters-to-Lockett connection on Saturday proved so effective that it essentially kept Daniel Sams off the field — only rushing three times for 7 yards in the first half.

In fact, the Wildcats only gained 24 yards on the ground all day, finishing with 372 yards of total offense. Running back John Hubert was quiet for the second straight game, rushing just nine times for 17 yards all day.

“Most teams can line up and take away whatever element of the game that they want to, and that was their choice,” Snyder said of OU’s run defense. “It’s understandable and they did it successfully. Our option was then to throw the football and I thought we did OK with that. I would have liked to have been successful in the run game, but their defense had a lot to do with that.”

Staff photo by Sarah MidgordenKansas State’s Jonathan Truman tackles Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight on Saturday. Knight finished with 82 rush yards to go along with 171 yards passing and two total touchdowns. Truman had a team-high 13 tackles).

Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2), on the other hand, had no trouble running the ball. Led by running back Brennan Clay’s 200 yards and two touchdowns, the Sooners racked up 301 yards on the ground. Redshirt-freshman quarterback Trevor Knight added 82 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, while completing 14 of 20 passes for 171 yards and another score.

Clay gashed the Wildcats all day — averaging 6.5 yards per carry — with eight carries going for 10 or more yards, including a 64-yard breakaway touchdown in the second quarter that gave OU a 21-14 lead.

“They had a great gameplan coming — they ran it all over us,” K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller said. “That was frustrating, especially on the defensive line.”

K-State spotted the Sooners 14 points in the first quarter before the Wildcats were able to get on the board. Playing from behind, the Wildcats’ first touchdown came on a 48-yard bomb from Waters to Lockett with 10:05 remaining in the first half. After forcing an Oklahoma punt, K-State made it back-to-back touchdowns to tie the game at 14 when Waters again found Lockett for a 30-yard score with 5:26 to play in the second quarter — setting off an offensive barrage from both teams before halftime.

The Sooners needed just three plays on their ensuing possession to go back ahead 21-14 after Clay’s long touchdown run. K-State’s answer came in the form of another Waters-to-Lockett pass. On first-and-19 from the Wildcats’ own 10-yard line, following a holding penalty, Waters delivered a long pass down the right sideline that was caught by Lockett, who raced into the end zone for a 90-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21 with 3:52 to go.

Oklahoma, which had 472 yards of total offense, took a 24-21 lead into break after Michael Hunnicutt made a 30-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the half.

K-State will now turn its attention to the Jayhawks in the regular-season finale next Saturday in Lawrence — a game the Wildcats need to win if they’re to improve their possible bowl destination next month.

“They are all major ballgames,” Snyder said. “You only get a chance to do it 12 times a year. The players work so hard over the course of a year and only get 12 opportunities. There are no less-than-significant games. They are all important.

“Make what you want about the in-state rivalry, and it certainly has a great deal of meaning to everybody, both universities, both team’s players and fans, but what I’m trying to say is there are no insignificant games on your schedule.”

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