Talk of upsetting the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners buzzed among most of the 47,054 fans in attendance at Bill Snyder Family Stadium after a Deon Murphy nine-yard touchdown reception. The Kansas State Wildcats had just tied the Sooners with eight minutes remaining in the first half and the Big 12 matchup seemed to be anyone's game.
The Sooners had other ideas. Oklahoma closed out the half by scoring 27 unanswered points, on their way to a 58-35 victory.
"I believe national championship caliber teams like (the Sooners) are answer the way they answered," Wildcat coach Ron Prince said. "When you do something positive, they come right back out. They played some of the most physical football at 28-28. There was no question- there was no doubt left who was the most physical football team at 28-28."
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The Sooners' response included a rapid-fire succession of scores. First, quarterback Sam Bradford connected with running back DeMarco Murray for a 10-yard touchdown. Less than two minutes later, Bradford found receiver Jermai Gresham for a 29-yard score. Following a Josh Freeman interception, Murray rushed in from four yards out, and db]Ryan Broyles[/db] wrapped up the scoring spree with a 68-yard punt return with 1:23 left in the half.
"That's what really good teams that win championships can do," Prince said of the Oklahoma takeover.
Bradford did his part in adding points to the scoreboard. Bradford passed for three touchdowns and also scored on a one-yard sneak. Bradford's teammates in the backfield balanced the Oklahoma offense, combining for 273 yards rushing. Murray rushed for 108 yards and added a pair of rushing trips to the end zone. He totaled four touchdowns on the day. Meanwhile, fellow running back Chris Brown rushed for a game-high 142 yards and a score.
Prior to the Sooner scoring spree, the Wildcats had clawed back into the contest after trailing by 21 in the first quarter. Freeman led the Wildcats on three straight scoring drives, capped off by Murphy's tying score. Freeman also connected with receiver Brandon Banks for a 77-yard touchdown and tight end Jeron Mastrud for a 29-yard score during the Wildcat recovery.
"It's encouraging," Banks said of the Wildcats' ability to put up 35 points against Oklahoma, who entered the contest allowing just 20.7 points per game. "It shows that we kept in it and what we can do in the future.
Although he scored no touchdowns, Freeman's top target on the day was receiver Ernie Pierce. Pierce entered the game with just six receptions on the season. Saturday he grabbed 11 catches for 176 yards.
Freeman finished the day with the three touchdown tosses and 478 yards passing, leading the Wildcat offense to actually out-gain the Sooners, but it was the mistakes -- three interceptions and two Wildcat fumbles -- that he focused on the most following the game.
"We have a number of issues that need to get fixed," Freeman said, "and obviously, when you play against a team like Oklahoma, you don't have any breathing room. They took advantage of all of our mistakes late in the first half."
After 30 minutes of football that had the scoreboard operator working at a frenetic pace, the Wildcats and Sooners combined for just 10 points in the second half, a stat not in K-State's favor after falling behind in the first.
"I thought we played better defensively in the second half," Prince said. "Tale of two halves, though, because then in the second half offensively we didn't accomplish much with what we had the opportunity to do."
The Wildcats (4-4, 1-3) ventured into Sooner territory six times in the second half, yet came away with just seven points. "We had the ball down there a couple times and came away with no points," Prince said of second half trips to OU territory, which included an Oklahoma goal-line stand, "and that was very damaging."
The Wildcat loss was not due to a lack of ingenuity, as K-State's first score came via a halfback pass from Logan Dold to Murphy. Later, they attempted an on-side kick that included a kicker falling over in near-vaudevillian style.
The Sooners (7-1, 3-1)rode into the endzone on their opening drive on the legs of sophomore Murray. Starting from just 26 yards out, Oklahoma needed just five plays – all carries by Murray – to reach the end zone. A Travis Lewis 31-yard interception return set up the Sooners' favorable field position. Lewis led the way for the Sooner defense, totaling 15 tackles and a pair of interceptions.
With four games remaining, the Wildcats still need two wins to secure bowl eligibility. The quest continues next Saturday, when the Wildcats travel to Lawrence to take on the Kansas Jayhawks.