April 23, 2024

Wildcats suffer humbling road loss in Big 12 opener

Kansas State Wildcats Football

Kansas State Coach Chris Klieman glances at the scoreboard during the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State Saturday September 25, 2021 at Boone Pickens Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

STILLWATER, Okla. — The Wildcats’ time as a ranked team will likely be short-lived after they got handed their first loss of the season.

Kansas State walked into Boone Pickens Stadium Saturday evening, and got punched in the mouth by Oklahoma State 31-20, which snapped its’ three-game winning streak. It wasn’t the results Chris Klieman expected his team to have and they couldn’t catch a break for most of the night.

Starting quarterback Will Howard got banged up in the first quarter and didn’t operate the same afterwards. The offense couldn’t run the ball with any consistency to keep the pressure off backup signal-caller Jaren Lewis. The Wildcats’ defense allowed a season-high, 481 total yards to the Cowboys and linebacker Daniel Green got ejected for targeting.

That ferocious pass rush the front seven been providing all season, wasn’t really a factor against Oklahoma State’s offense. The crowd of 54,144 didn’t show Klieman’s squad no mercy either.

However, the 25th-ranked Wildcats didn’t give up and trimmed the Cowboys’ lead down after they fell behind 21 points in the second quarter.

“We fought in the second half and did some better things finally on defense in the second half to slow them down,” Klieman. “We just couldn’t penetrate them and couldn’t get enough things going offensively.”

Klieman is now 0-3 head-to-head against Mike Gundy. Oklahoma State (4-0) also beat Kansas State in the stats that mattered. Gundy’s team dominated in time of possession, generated more first downs and ran 21 additional plays. Kansas State All-Big 12 running back Deuce Vaughn was held under the century mark in rushing for the first time this season.

The fumble by the offense that resulted in six points for the opposition is what really changed the momentum of the game in the Cowboys’ favor. Klieman grew frustrated with his team early on when they couldn’t respond to that bell every time Oklahoma State scored.

“Obviously in that first series, we were able to get some quarterback run game going,” he said. “When we lost Will, it took some of the play calling that Coach Messingham was wanting to do away because that’s Will’s forte and not as much Jaren.”

Despite the Wildcats’ rough outing, there were plenty of positive takeaways from Saturday’s clash. Lewis had a solid performance after being thrown to the wolves. He completed 10 of his 19 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown. There were times he held onto the ball too long, which resulted in two sacks, but Lewis had full command of the offense.

Vaughn never could get into a rhythm on the ground, but did get involved through the air. The Texas native solidified he has the best hands of any running back in the Big 12. Vaughn finished with a team-high, five receptions, including a receiving touchdown, plus 49 of his yards through the air came after the catch.

Wide receiver Malik Knowles took a 99-yard kickoff to the house, which silenced the crowd momentarily. And the defense held Oklahoma State’s offense scoreless in the second half. There’s a lot the Wildcats can learn from this loss and not let it have a snowball effect like they suffered in 2020.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Kansas State (3-1), with Oklahoma and Iowa State looming over the next two games. Now it’s back to the drawing board for Klieman and he knows his boys have a lot of work to do this upcoming week in practice.

“It’s a long season with an awful lot of opportunities in front of us, so if we learn from this and continue to improve, we’ve got a chance to be okay,” the 53-year old coach said. “Adversity has struck us for the first time this year.”