STILLWATER, Okla. – K-State figured if it could win the battle of the red zone against a high-powered Oklahoma State offense, it would have a chance on Saturday night in Boone Pickens Stadium.
The No. 24/22 Wildcats did so defensively, limiting the Cowboys to one touchdown in five red zone opportunities. K-State’s offense, however, only reached the red zone twice and struggled to find success for most of a 26-13 loss to start Big 12 play.
“We thought if we could win the red zone, we’d have an opportunity,” K-State head coach Chris Klieman said, “so I was pleased with that.”
OSU, ranked No. 11 nationally in total offense (533.8) and No. 12 in scoring offense (44.5) coming in, put up 526 yards of offense but was held nearly 20 points below its scoring average.The Cowboys’ one touchdown in the red zone came off a drive that started on K-State’s 26-yard line after a Wildcat fumble in the first quarter.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge, coming in here and trying to slow down something, whether it was the run game, whether it was the throwing game, the quarterback. Our goal was to handle the tempo, not get frustrated if they make a play, and forget about the previous play and go to the next play, and hold them to field goals, “ Klieman said. “You can forget about yards; I don’t care about that. We held them to 26 points, which is a pretty good effort by our defense, which created a few turnovers.”
The Wildcats turned the Cowboys over twice on a pair of interceptions from Elijah Sullivan and Darreyl Patterson in the second half.
Sullivan’s pick led to one of Blake Lynch’s two made field goals. Patterson’s occurred with K-State down 23-6 in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats scored six plays later on a 5-yard touchdown run from James Gilbert to cut their deficit to 10, but the Cowboys answered with a 6:11 drive that ended in a field goal and sealed the game.
“We were able to cause some problems. We were able to force a couple of picks. We were able to force a fumble,” Klieman said. “I thought our defense did a nice job.”
Early on, K-State’s defense kept its hopes alive. The Wildcats simply struggled to find much success on offense. They finished with 244 total yards, including 163 in the second half.
In the second quarter with K-State down 10-0, sophomore defensive end Wyatt Hubert forced a fourth down fumble to give the Wildcats the ball at the Cowboy 40. K-State failed to move the chains, however. The Wildcats converted 1-of-13 third down chances for the game.
“Offensively, we just couldn’t get enough going, especially on first-and-10. That was where we struggled,” Klieman said. “We just didn’t get into a great offensive rhythm on first-and-10. That’s a credit to their defense.”
Ultimately, OSU’s three-headed attack of quarterback Spencer Sanders, running back Chuba Hubbard and receiver Tylan Wallace were too effective to keep at bay. Sanders threw for 153 yards, 145 of which went to Wallace. Hubbard finished with 296 rushing yards, highlighted by an 84-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to put OSU up 23-3.
K-State’s first and biggest jolt of offense arrived after a 1-hour, 12-minute weather delay in the second quarter. Skylar Thompson connected with Sammy Wheeler for a 39-yard gain on the first play after play resumed. It was K-State’s first time moving the chains, but it did not lead to a second, as the Wildcats (3-1, 0-1) settled for a 46-yard Blake Lynch field goal.
“They battled, and that’s the one thing, there’s not any quit in that locker room,” Klieman said of his team, which returns home to play Baylor on Saturday, October 5. “They’re hurting right now. Obviously, nobody wants to lose. Nobody wants to not play their best, but sometimes you have to tip your cap to the opponent. They did a nice job. They were a better team today.”