By Austin Siegel
NORMAN, Okla. – You could start with the game-winning field goal from Blake Lynch. But what about the three rushing touchdowns from Skylar Thompson and the 31 second-half points? Maybe you want to focus on the 174 all-purpose yards from Deuce Vaughn, but you can’t ignore a defense, missing five players, that picked off Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler three times in a comeback win that tied for the largest in K-State history.
When you talk about the Saturday afternoon when Kansas State (1-1) made history in Norman with a 38-35 win over No. 3 Oklahoma (1-1), you could really start anywhere.
Chris Klieman will start on Friday.
That’s when Klieman learned K-State would have enough players to face the Sooners, but would need to rely on seven Wildcats off the bench to fill out their two-deep roster in Norman.
“Great resolve by our guys and a great team win,” Klieman said. “A lot of short meetings and walkthroughs [this week], sending them things they could look at on their iPad, just having the older guys talk to them and try to show them as many things as we can.”
A short-handed K-State defense put their stamp on the game early. On Oklahoma’s first drive of the afternoon, Elijah Sullivan grabbed a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage for his first interception of the year. Later in the half, Justin Gardner – one of those defensive players pressed into a starting role – went stride-for-stride with Oklahoma wide receiver Marvin Mims for the team’s second takeaway of the afternoon.
“I was excited for Justin Gardner’s opportunity to play a bunch,” Klieman said. “Knock on wood, who knows who’s going to be available next week? That’s what everyone has to realize on our team, and across college football, this is a great win, but now we’ve got to go back on Monday, see who’s available and get those guys ready to play.”
K-State couldn’t turn those early interceptions into points, but the Wildcats found a spark on offense late in the first half.
On 3rd and 18 near midfield, Skylar Thompson connected with Chabastin Taylor on a 39-yard dart to put K-State on the board. An otherwise quiet first half allowed the Sooners to take a 21-7 lead into the locker room.
Thompson was banged up again on Saturday but finished the afternoon with 334 yards passing.
“I was battling through a little injury and cramping, but there wasn’t anything taking me out,” Thompson said. “Everybody on the sidelines had great spirit, kept telling me to stick with it and trust the game plan. One play at a time.”
What happened after halftime will go down as one of the most impressive 30 minutes in the history of Kansas State football.In his pregame interview, Klieman jokingly asked FOX color commentator Joel Klatt if he could step in at cornerback for a depleted K-State secondary. So, that’s where the Wildcats were at when the team arrived in Norman.
“I came out a halftime and looked at Seth Porter before the third quarter started,” Thompson said. “I told him, ‘We’re going to win this game, Seth.’ He looked at me and said, ‘I have no doubt.’ There was just no doubt in our locker room at halftime that we could win this football game.”
The K-State defense went the distance on Saturday with the No. 3 team in the country. The Wildcats came up with a huge fourth-down stop to kick off the second half, shutting down Rattler in a short-yardage situation at midfield.
After Oklahoma found the end zone on their next drive, Thompson responded quickly with a 77-yard pass to Vaughn, giving the freshman a chance to show off the playmaking ability that has been one of the stories of the 2020 season.
And the ‘Cats weren’t done. Not even close. The touchdown would be the first of four consecutive scoring drives for K-State, as the Wildcats erased a 35-14 deficit in the third quarter.
Vaughn posted 129 receiving yards and scored two touchdowns in his first college start on Saturday. The true freshman’s 174 all-purpose yards against Oklahoma helped cement an electric start to Vaughn’s career, through just two games with K-State.“My Dad always tells me, ‘It’s about what you put in the ATM, Monday through Friday. On Saturday, you cash everything out.’ This team put a lot of things in the ATM,” Vaughn said. “Today, when it was time, we cashed everything out.”
Thompson tossed a 77-yard pass, a 78-yard pass and rushed for three touchdowns to help the Wildcats close the game on a 31-7 run. On their final drive of the game, the Wildcats set up a 50-yard game-winning field goal from Lynch. “Dreamed about this for a while,” Lynch said. “Everybody at halftime believed that we could win. Coach Klieman got in there and was getting us hyped up. He never gave up on us.” Oklahoma had the ball needing a touchdown to win the game, before Jahron McPherson came up with the game-winning interception to seal the win in the final seconds.
It’s the first time in K-State history the Wildcats have won two straight games over a top-five opponent, after a 48-41 win over No. 5 Oklahoma last season in Manhattan.
The Wildcats return to action on Saturday for their first Big 12 home game of the season against Texas Tech. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. in front of a national TV audience on FS1.