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By D. Scott Fritchen
MANHATTAN, Kan. – The theme for Kansas State Homecoming week was “Wildcat Dreams.” K-State in dream-like fashion issued a statement across the college football world with one of the most lopsided victories in top-10 history.
Will Howard threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns, and the defense enjoyed its most dominant effort against a Big 12 Conference opponent this season, as No. 22 K-State throttled No. 9 Oklahoma State, 48-0, in a historic display that ended with students flooding the field and carrying the hero quarterback off on their shoulders at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
“I’ll cherish that for the rest of my life,” Howard said. “That was a pretty cool moment. I’m a humble guy and don’t like to have the spotlight on me or anything, but I didn’t really have a choice in that situation.
“They picked me up.”
And one week after K-State suffered a 38-28 loss at No. 8 TCU, Howard picked up the Wildcats during his first start of the season in place of injured senior Adrian Martinez. K-State claimed sole possession of second place in the Big 12 while posing the largest ever shutout victory by a lower-ranked team against an AP top-1o opponent.
“This is as good a win collectively as I’ve been a part of,” said Chris Klieman, who became the first K-State head coach to beat two top-10 opponents in a single season.
K-State, 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12, captured bowl eligibility for a second straight season and for the third time in four years, hobbling the Cowboys, 6-2 and 3-2, in bareknuckle fashion and shutting out Oklahoma State for the first time since a 10-0 win in 1992.
The Wildcats recorded the biggest shutout win ever of an AP Top-10 team by a lower-ranked team. It also marked Oklahoma State’s first shutout loss against a Big 12 opponent since a 27-0 defeat at Oklahoma on November 28, 2009.
“This was a lot of fun,” said K-State linebacker Nick Allen, who had a team-high eight tackles. “It was very dominant. We got through the third quarter and were like, ‘We’ve got to keep the zero on the board.’ We accomplished that goal.”
Oklahoma State averaged 45.7 points and 466.9 total yards, and they left with no points and 217 total yards to the delight of 51,133 that also saw Howard and his wide receivers make a statement as Deuce Vaughn raced up the all-time rushing charts.
Vaughn rushed 22 times for 158 yards and one touchdown and added four catches for 18 yards and a 1-yard touchdown reception with 7 seconds left in the second quarter to lift K-State to a 35-0 halftime lead.
In the process, Vaughn passed Ell Roberson at No. 4 and Daniel Thomas at No. 3 in all-time in rushing at K-State. Vaughn has 2,948 yards. He needs 46 more to pass John Hubert for No. 2 on the all-time rushing list.
“Every single time we step on the field we do it for each other,” Vaughn said. “Anytime you see Kansas State and that logo, it’s just a whole bunch of guys out there playing for each other, and most of the time you’re going to get successful results because of it.”
Meanwhile, Malik Knowles had the best game of his career with eight catches for 113 yards. Kade Warner finished with five catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns — one a 38-yarder and another on a 41-yard catch-and-run through the teeth of the Cowboys’ defense in the first half. Phillip Brooks had two catches for 41 yards and a 31-yard touchdown reception as well.
K-State outgained Oklahoma State, 495-217, and averaged 6.7 yards per play while the Cowboys averaged just 3.4. K-State also held Oklahoma State to just 5-of-15 on third downs.
“Our defense was phenomenal and held a really good offense to no points somehow, which is crazy with as talented as they are, and we played as well as we could play,” Klieman said. “I’m excited for our guys and we’re going to enjoy this for 24 hours and then we have to get back to work.”
As a part of K-State’s Homecoming festivities, the K-State marching band blared Les Miserables “I Dreamed a Dream” during a halftime performance.
By then, the Wildcats, who came off a tough 38-28 loss at No. 8 TCU, had already made their greatest performance ever against a top-10 opponent all but a reality.
“We just played a really good game today against a really good team and beat them 48-0,” Howard said. “We have a lot of confidence, a lot of great talent, and the nice thing is that we haven’t played our best game.
“That’s still in front of us.”
K-State faces Texas at home, then travels to Baylor and West Virginia before ending its regular season against Kansas in Manhattan.
“The pressure is on us, and pressure is a privilege,” Vaughn said. “The way we prepare during the week and take care of our business, everybody is going to give us their best shot. We have a target on our back.
“We have a really good team coming in here Saturday and we have three other good teams that we have to play to get to where we want to go. We understand that and we’re super-excited for the challenge.”
Howard was sensational from the start, finding Warner for a 38-yard touchdown, hitting Brooks with a 31-yard score, and connecting with Warner for a 41-yard catch-and-run.
In between, Vaughn raced up the all-time rushing charts while darting 62 yards into the end zone. On Vaughn’s long run, he passed Roberson and Thomas on the all-time rushing chart.
K-State led 28-0 with 9:06 still remaining in the second quarter.
“Was this the best we could ever play? I don’t think so still,” Warner said. “We still left some on the table. In the second half, we didn’t do some of the things we wanted to do. It was good enough to come out and get a win.
“We’re a damned good football team and we’re going to fight every single play, no matter if we’re up 25 or down 25, however much is left in the game, we’re going to fight every single play.”
The Wildcats saved one of their best drives of the first half for last, when Howard took them on a 14-play, 77-yard jaunt that consumed 6:35 and was played to perfection, as they ran time off the clock before Howard hit Vaughn with a 1-yard pass in the end zone for a 35-0 lead with 7 seconds left until halftime. Howard’s four touchdown passes tied for the most in school history.
Oklahoma State was really no threat.
Spencer Sanders completed 13-of-26 passes for 147 yards and one interception and his replacement late in the fourth quarter, Gunnar Gundy, threw a pick and ended as the team’s leading rusher with 27 yards.
Oklahoma State’s longest drive was 43 yards — and it ended when linebacker Krew Jackson intercepted his pass with 2 minutes remaining in the game.
By then a postgame celebration was brewing. K-State students lifted Howard into the air and the Wildcats marched victoriously into the locker room following a historic outing that the school won’t soon forget.
“Our players deserved that. They deserved to celebrate with the great students who came out to support us, the band, our great community and great state that came out and supported us,” Klieman said. “Credit our kids.”
There’s still work to do for the Wildcats as they set their focus on their upcoming game with the goal of a berth in the Big 12 Championship Game looming large upon the horizon.
“We control our destiny and everything we want is still in front of us,” Howard said. “Doing this today definitely helped that, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“We’ll enjoy this one for 24 hours and get back to work.”