MANHATTAN, Kan. – K-State’s stadium erupted with cheers. Soon, its student section emptied onto the field to celebrate K-State’s 48-41 win against No. 5 Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1) on Saturday afternoon.
Most of them — the students and the players — were not alive the last time K-State (5-2, 2-2) topped Oklahoma at home in 1996. First-year head coach Chris Klieman was coaching defensive backs at Western Illinois at the time.
Fans had not rushed the field at Bill Snyder Family Stadium since clinching a Big 12 Championship at home against Texas in 2012. This time, the Wildcats knocked off the four-time defending Big 12 champion.
“It was crazy. It was a surreal moment,” said true freshman receiver Joshua Youngblood, who had three catches and his first career touchdown on a jet sweep. “It was great having them down there, talking to everybody, seeing people who were in my classes come to the game. It’s a great feeling.”
“That was a crazy moment,” added senior center Adam Holtorf. “That’s something that I’ll truly remember forever, being a senior and being able to beat a highly-ranked team at home the way we did. There’s so many things going through your head, but it’s something special.”
For a little more than three quarters, K-State’s execution was something special.
Behind it, the Wildcats overcame 10-0 and 17-7 deficits in the first quarter to take a 24-23 lead to halftime. They outscored Oklahoma 17-0 in the third quarter to build a 25-point lead and they held on in the fourth quarter for the victory.
K-State’s win was sealed when an onside kick recovery by Oklahoma with less than two minutes left was overturned by replay review, prompting a loud roar in the stadium and putting K-State’s offense into the victory formation.
“I don’t know if it has really fully hit me yet, to be honest. I’ve just been at a loss for words,” K-State quarterback Skylar Thompson said. “I was sitting at my locker kind of just thinking about what we just did and how we did it. It’s a special moment for me in my life, but I know for Kansas State and the history, it’ll go down as a game people will remember forever. Just the thought of me being a part of it, a small part of it, is something I’m truly grateful for.”
Thompson and K-State’s offense came together quickly after a three-and-out to start the game.
The Wildcats followed that series with three consecutive scoring drives of 10 or more plays that ate up a combined 15:45 of clock. K-State ended up with eight straight scoring drives between the first and fourth quarter — the most against a Big 12 opponent since recording eight in 2012 against West Virginia. K-State’s run of scores was capped by a 10-play, 73-yard touchdown drive to go up 48-23 early in the fourth quarter.
“What can you say about the resolve of our guys? I’m so proud of the players and the coaches. We told them before the game that we belong on this stage and told them to continue to believe,” Klieman said. “The guys continued to believe throughout the game. Even when we were down 10-0 and 17-7, I saw a sideline of guys who felt like they really had a chance to win the football game and stay in the football game against a great, great football team.”
The Wildcats used effective offense as a second defense, winning the time of possession by more than 16 minutes (38:08 to 21:52). They did so, in part, with a rejuvenated run game.
K-State rushed for 213 yards, led by James Gilbert’s 105 on 13 carries. Jordon Brown, in his first action since K-State’s Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State, added 63 yards on 12 carries. Thompson chipped in 39 yards and a career-high four scores on the ground. He also connected on 18-of-28 through the air for 213 yards, hooking up with nine different receivers.
“We were so confident going into this game,” senior left tackle Scott Frantz said. “(The coaches) had a great game plan and said, ‘Hey, just trust us. If you execute it, it’s going to work.’”
The Wildcats also forced and took advantage of a pair Oklahoma turnovers, turning them into 14 points.
“We talked about being able to create a huge turnover to change the momentum,” Klieman said. “We were able to create two.”
AJ Parker intercepted a pass off an Oklahoma trick play late in the first half. Thompson scored three plays later on a 14-yard draw on third-and-10.
Senior linebacker Eric Gallon made a pair of game-changing plays close together in the second half.
Gallon suffered a serious injury on his second crucial play, a forced fumble on a pooch kick about midway through the third quarter. Ross Elder recovered the fumble, which led to one of Thompson’s touchdown runs. The series before, Gallon, a senior, deflected a third-down pass to cap a three-and-out. It, too, opened the door to a short field and a quick K-State score.
“Those were amazing plays. We love Eric. When he went down, we made the decision we had to go win it for him and for everything he’s worked for and everything he’s done,” Parker said. “Prayers out to EG. We used his plays to get the win and we’re forever thankful for him.”
K-State, one win away from bowl eligibility, will head to Lawrence next weekend to face Kansas for the Dillons Sunflower Showdown. It will kick at 2:30 p.m., on FS1.
*Photos by Tanner Colvin*