NORMAN, Okla. – Listen to what Bill Snyder says. At age 72, with 163 career victories at a program that in 1988 was the laughingstock of college football, he can be considered an expert witness.
"It's a long, long season … anything can happen," Snyder said.
That comment was directed at Oklahoma's chances of bouncing back and being a factor in the Big 12 Conference race. That's because the fifth-ranked Sooners lost to Snyder's 13th-ranked Wildcats, 24-19, Saturday night.
The last part of that comment, the "anything can happen" part – well, that's what we should start expecting from Kansas State (4-0, 1-0) and quarterback Collin Klein. Under Bob Stoops – an assistant who helped Snyder turn K-State into a winner – Oklahoma (2-1, 0-1) was 14-0 at home against ranked teams and had won 78 of 81 home games. Last year's 41-38 loss here to unraked Texas Tech was stunning.
So how do you describe Kansas State's victory?
"Expected. We came here expecting to win, we knew we could come in here and get a win," senior receiver Chris Harper said. "There was no doubt in anybody's mind. It fueled us because nobody gave us a chance."
Stoops described the Wildcats as "persistent" and "sophisticated." Sounds about right. Snyder said his team "kept sawing wood" and "kept rowing in the same direction." Also accurate.
The Wildcats won with an opportunistic defense, a tackle-breaking running game keyed by John Hubert (130 yards and the game-clinching touchdown) and Klein (79 yards on 17 attempts). Oklahoma had more total yards but K-State had nearly a 10-minute edge in time of possession. The Wildcats converted half of their 14 third downs and one fourth-down attempt.
Oklahoma's defense had two weeks to prepare but the Wildcats' game planning and play calling caused confusion and led to wide open receivers. At one point in the third quarter, OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops called a timeout and stormed on the field almost to the hash marks.
"Our coaches did an amazing job of preparing us and putting us into position to be successful," Klein said. "We didn't execute that well to start and missed some chances. But we did it when we had to."
Klein's passing stats were 13-of-21 for 149 yards – hardly eye catching in this time of PlayStation stats. But each of his 13 completions was crucial. His 12-yard connection to Tramaine Thompson on third-and-11 with just over three minutes to play allowed K-State to run out the clock.
The sellout crowd of 85,276 – there was a narrow sliver of happy purple-clad fans in the corner near the South end zone – no doubt went home bemoaning OU's missed chances. The Sooners left a minimum of seven points on the field plus one of their two fumbles gave the Wildcats' their first touchdown.
Quarterback Landry Jones (28-of-43, 298 yards, one TD) missed a wide open Brannon Green in the end zone on Oklahoma's first drive. The Sooners settled for a field goal and a 3-0 lead. Another OU first-half possession fizzled on a fumble on second-and-goal from the 1. Blake Bell, Oklahoma's Belldozer, fumbled the shotgun snap and K-State recovered.
"We played real dumb football, me especially," Jones said.
"When you're turning the ball over it's going to kill you," Stoops said. Indeed, 17 of K-State's points came from OU mistakes.
Kansas State's first touchdown came early in the second quarter. On a second-and-13 from the OU 13, Jones targeted freshman Trey Metoyer over the middle. Middle linebacker Arthur Brown made it an incompletion with a clean and massive hit. On the next play, Justin Tuggle chased Jones and sacked him, stripping the ball loose and Jarell Childs recovered it in the end zone.
"That's what I'm talking about when I say it was a total team effort," Klein said. "That was a huge lift for us for the defense to get seven points for us. We were fortunate to come out on the right side of those turnovers."
Last season, Tuggle was a backup quarterback who failed to beat out Klein for the starting job. Late in 2011, he asked to switch to defense to get on the field. After OU's final touchdown, Tuggle batted down Jones' pass on a two-point conversion try. His experience as a quarterback was valuable on the sack and strip.
"I've been in that situation as a quarterback, you're looking down the field, you have no idea that a guy's coming from your blind side," said Tuggle, who lined up at defensive end on each of his big plays. "We talked about all week that if the defense could put some points on the board that could be big. We thought if we put pressure on Jones he might turn it over.
"It's a great feeling. Last year, I didn't have much fun on the sideline. I wanted to get on the field. I looked forward to this all winter, all summer. I wanted to be in a game like this, I made a play in a big game and it felt good."
Bell atoned for his fumble with a 3-yard touchdown run that gave the Sooners a 13-10 lead with five minutes left in the third quarter. After stopping K-State on its ensuing possession, Oklahoma appeared poised to take control.
Jones, though, threw over the middle off his back foot – Kansas State's Vai Lutui was pressuring him – and the pass overshot Kenny Stills and was picked off by Ty Zimmerman. Kansas State needed seven played to drive 38 yards with Klein's 5-yard run giving the Wildcats a 17-13 lead.
Sooner Magic appeared and then disappeared. On the first play from scrimmage from the 35,Damien Williams streaked 65 yards down the sideline in front of the OU bench for a touchdown. A holding penalty on receiver Justin Brown brought it back and the possession ended in a punt.
The Wildcats then drove 77 yards in eight plays as Klein completed three passes for 60 yards. Hubert's 9-yard touchdown run was a never-give-up effort that made it 24-13.
The Sooners were the preseason choice of the media to win the Big 12 championship. The Wildcats were picked to finish sixth. A September outcome doesn't validate either prediction. For Oklahoma, it was the shock and the disappointment of losing at home that stung the most.
"We expect a lot more out of ourselves," said OU receiver Kenny Stills, who had six catches for 60 yards. It's embarrassing to go out there and play like that as an offense"
We refer young Mr. Stills to the words of the older and wiser Bill Snyder. It's a long season … anything can happen.