NORMAN, Okla. — It’s a script Oklahoma has become all too familiar with in recent years.
Kansas State comes into the meeting with the Sooners with signs of struggle, then turns things on against OU.
That’s exactly what happened Saturday.
The Wildcats’ offense, which had been slumbering during non-conference play, came alive behind Adrian Martinez and Deuce Vaughn.
Kansas State’s defense made life difficult for the Sooners’ offense and Dillon Gabriel struggled.
In the end, the Wildcats whipped No. 6 OU 41-34 to hand Brent Venables his first loss as the Sooners’ head coach.
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Here are five takeaways from the loss:
Dillon Gabriel not sharp
Gabriel’s numbers weren’t bad — 26 of 39 for 330 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions — but the Sooners quarterback had his toughest game of the season.
The most indicative play of Gabriel’s struggles came late in the third quarter, right after Kansas State took a 27-20 lead with a field goal.
The Sooners went for it on fourth-and-3 from the Wildcats’ 39, with Gabriel looking to hit Drake Stoops on a quick pass that would’ve easily netted the first down.
But Gabriel’s throw was well ahead of Stoops, who dove but couldn’t manage more than getting his fingertips on the ball.
It was one of several instances of Gabriel overthrowing receivers.
He’s avoided interceptions through the first four games, but Gabriel has missed quite a few throws over the last two games especially.
Sooners’ LBs struggle, rest of defense goes along
OU’s defense had shown plenty of improvement through the first three games.
But Kansas State’s offense — even with some of its recent issues — figured to challenge the Sooners in ways UTEP, Kent State and Nebraska could not.
Martinez’s running ability at quarterback and Vaughn’s escapability out of the backfield was going to put stress on OU’s linebackers especially.
The returns were not good.
Kansas State reeled off a couple long touchdown drives to begin the game, taking advantage of some suspect tackling and positioning from Sooners linebackers David Ugwoegbu and Danny Stutsman.
OU settled in a bit after that, but still struggled to find the right mix, as Kansas State took a 24-17 lead into halftime.
The Wildcats outgained the Sooners 279-227 in the first half, rushing for 150 yards — 80 of those from Vaughn.
Martinez delivered the back-breaker with less than three minutes remaining, breaking off a 55-yard run on third-and-16.
Two plays later, Martinez scored his fourth rushing touchdown of the game to put the Wildcats up 41-27 with less than two minutes remaining.
Martinez finished 21 of 34 for 234 yards and a touchdown through the air and had 148 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries on the ground.
Vaughn ran for 116 yards on 25 carries.
Penalties hurt OU football in loss to Kansas State
The Sooners were flagged a season-high 11 times for 87 yards in the game, with several coming at critical moments.
In the second quarter, Brayden Willis was flagged for a false start on fourth-and-1 as OU tried to go for it. It appeared as if tackle Wanya Morris’ movement knocked Willis off-balance. On the next play, Anton Harrison was called for a false start to push the Sooners even further back.
Then in the third quarter, Chris Murray was flagged for a false start after Eric Gray ripped off two long runs for a promising start to the drive with OU trailing 24-20.
The flag led to the drive stalling, though the Sooners looked poised to go for it on fourth-and-4. But OU’s snap came late, and a delay of game penalty left the Sooners without much choice other than to punt.
The Sooners hadn’t had more than seven penalties in any game during non-conference play.
Not ready to run (early)
OU’s offensive line looked much improved against Nebraska.
That momentum didn’t carry over into Saturday’s game, though.
As expected, Morris moved into the starting lineup at right tackle after making his season debut against the Cornhuskers.
Gray has had plenty of success early in the season for the Sooners, but without much room to maneuver, Gray struggled in the first half, with just 14 yards on five carries.
The Sooners ran for just 42 yards in the first half.
In the second half, OU settled in on the ground, as Gray finished with 114 yards on 16 carries.
Some things never change
Since the Bill Snyder days, Kansas State has been one of the best in college football on special teams.
So far this season, the Wildcats hadn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire in kick returns, though. The Wildcats came into the game with just three kick returns for a total of 47 yards.
But after the Sooners settled in to tie the game at 14 early in the second quarter, Kansas State came up with a big return.
Malik Knowles caught the ball at the goal-line, and hesitated momentarily before returning the kick, and quickly it became apparent he’d made the right decision.
Knowles didn’t quite break free for what would’ve been his fourth career kick return for a touchdown, but his 58-yard return — shortly after Marvin Mims’ 50-yard touchdown catch — put the momentum back on Kansas State’s side.
The Wildcats ate up nearly six minutes of clock on the 11-play, 42-yard touchdown drive to regain the lead.
In last season’s meeting in Manhattan, Knowles’ 93-yard kick return score pulled the Wildcats within six in the final two minutes before the Sooners recovered an onside kick to put the game away.