Skylar Thompson needed a moment to himself in the locker room after Kansas State upset No. 5 Oklahoma 48-41 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium Saturday. Thompson, who scored four rushing touchdowns against the Sooners, took 20 minutes sitting alone before conducting his postgame press conference.
Afterward, he still was unsure what to think.
“I don’t think it has really fully hit me yet to be honest,” Thompson said. “I’ve just been at a loss of words sitting down at my locker thinking about what we just did and how we did it. It’s a special moment for me and my life, but I know for Kansas State, and the history here, it will go down as a game that people will remember forever.”
Thompson was an unstoppable force in the red zone with his four scores — but it also was a product of the best performance from the offensive line all season, along with a rejuvenated rushing core that was quiet in the few weeks prior.
“Offensively, we were cracking and winning the line of scrimmage,” Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman said. “We were able to hit some perimeter run. I think it was big for us to have Jordon Brown back, because it gave us that three-back set with some older guys. That helped us, and I thought Skylar was on point. He saw pressure (and) he delivered the football against a really dominant defense.”
Klieman admitted he wasn’t sure why this week, against Big 12 titan Oklahoma, was when the offensive line was more convincing in its ability to control the trench. The Wildcats compiled 213 rushing yards on a 4.7 yards-per-carry clip against a stout Sooners defense.
“We’ve been kind of under the microscope a little bit, and a lot of it is our fault,” Kansas State senior offensive linemen Scott Frantz said. “There is a lot of stuff that goes on. But we came out and had a great game plan and played like we had nothing to lose. But we played like we had nothing to lose. Is the pressure on us, or is it on No. 5 Oklahoma?”
The rushing attack for Kansas State didn’t get to show out from the start, though. The Wildcats’ first offensive possession was a three-and-out and the Sooners took advantage by taking a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
Even without the immediate results on the scoreboard, Klieman said he was encouraged by the success the line was having just by how it forced Oklahoma’s defense to shift.
Frantz was reassured by field positioning.
“Besides that first drive going three-and-out, I think we did a really great job,” Frantz said. “Even when we didn’t put points on the board, we had good drives that ate up the clock and kept Jalen Hurts and his offense off the field. Even though we weren’t getting points, we were moving the ball. The worst thing you can do is go three-and-out and then you punt it, and I mean, we have Devin Anctil, who is a phenomenal punter.”
The line provided opportunities, and the running backs took advantage. James Gilbert had 105 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries and Jordan Brown had 63 yards on 12 carries in his return from injury.
Gilbert said the running backs were fully aware of the criticism toward their production, and Oklahoma was an opportunity to reply.
“People have been questioning our run game in the past couple of weeks, and I feel like we established the run really well throughout the game,” Gilbert said. “I think we kept pounding and played all four quarters without being satisfied.”
Brown’s return provided the Wildcats with a mixture of different looks. Gilbert is the powerful back who can do damage up the middle of the field and Brown is explosive when he got to the edge. Both kept the Sooners on their heels.
Gilbert and Brown had the bulk of the yardage, but when the Wildcats reached the goal line, it was all Thompson. The scenario where Thompson scored four rushing touchdowns was no fluke, either, Gilbert said.
“We worked on goal line the last bye week we had, so we just put him in packages where he could run the ball,” Gilbert said. “He understands the concepts and where the ball is trying to hit so he does a good job. ... When you have a guy like Skylar Thompson, when he can run the ball, too, it keeps the defense off-balanced, because they have to worry about all the ball-carriers. At the same time, they have to worry about No. 10.”
Thompson was effective in the passing game, too. He had 213 yards there, but it was the success on the ground opened that up.
“It was a true balanced attack, which is what we strive to do,” Thompson said. “It was big for us, and I felt like when we got into the red zone we got points, which was huge. We scored touchdowns. Their defense was giving up like 18 points a game and we put up 48 points, so it just shows what we are capable of.”