Norman, OK (SportsNetwork.com) - The Kansas State Wildcats and Oklahoma Sooners meet in clash of ranked Big 12 Conference rivals this Saturday.
Bill Snyder's 14th-ranked Kansas State squad comes in sporting a 4-1 record, 2-0 in conference, and has won two in a row since suffering its lone defeat in a 20-14 decision at home to Auburn on Sept. 18. The Wildcats were idle last weekend, and their last outing resulted in a 45-13 rout of Texas Tech in what was the finale of a three-game homestand. A win in this contest would give Snyder 183 career victories, tying him for 35th place all-time among FBS coaches.
Oklahoma has won five of its first six games, the lone setback being a 37-33 verdict at TCU two weeks ago. The 11th-ranked Sooners bounced back to beat Texas in the latest installment of the Red River Rivalry in Dallas last Saturday, 31-26, improving them to 2-1 in the Big 12. Coach Bob Stoops' club has won 10 straight home games, and will play four of its final six bouts of the regular season, including this one, in Norman.
Oklahoma has dominated the series with Kansas State, logging an impressive 72-18-4 record. The Sooners are 9-4 versus the Wildcats since the formation of the Big 12 back in 1996. K-State won two years ago in Norman, 24-19, marking its first road win in the series since 1997.
Both teams enter the fray with nearly identical offensive stats, including scoring (KSU 40.8 ppg, OU 40.5 ppg), rushing (OU 191.0 ypg, KSU 189.0 ypg ) and passing (KSU 255.0 ypg, OU 254.5 ypg).
Jake Waters has done his best to keep the Wildcats on the right path, as he has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,206 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions, his favorite targets being Tyler Lockett (29 rec., 399 yards, three TDs) and Curry Sexton (28 rec., 335 yards, two TDs). Waters has also produced with his legs, churning out a team-high 320 rushing yards while crossing the goal line six times. Charles Jones has eight rushing TDs to his credit, and he has amassed 293 yards on 57 carries (5.1 ypc).
Jonathan Truman continues to pace the 'Cats in tackles with 43, but a lack of impact plays at the line of scrimmage has been noticeable. Kansas State's meager total of seven sacks (last in the conference) is three times less than the Big 12's top teams (Baylor and Texas with 21 apiece). However, the Wildcats are the least penalized team in the league (20 total infractions, 32.4 ypg), and the defense is on the field the least of any team in the conference as KSU leads the way in time of possession (33:06). Overall, the Wildcats are permitting 21.0 points and 315.8 yards per tilt, both figures ranking them second in the Big 12, with their 81.4 ypg allowed on the ground placing them first in the conference and fourth in the country.
Waters was instrumental in helping the Wildcats whip visiting Texas Tech a couple of weeks back, accounting for 395 of the team's season-high 535 yards of total offense, and five TDs. His four passing scores tied the school record, and both Lockett (12 rec., 125 yards, two TDs) and Sexton (nine rec., career-high 128, two TDs) tallied more than 100 receiving yards. Waters once again paced the KSU rushing attack with 105 yards and a score on 17 attempts.
Texas Tech produced 247 yards through the air, but only 46 on the ground as K- State once again stood tall at the point of attack. Truman led the way with nine stops, all unassisted, and both Morgan Burns and Travis Green had a pair of INTs.
While realizing there is still work to be done, Snyder was generally pleased with the effort his team displayed in the win over Texas Tech.
"I think we are making some headway and making progress. It is pretty easy to see that they left a little on the table, too. We are still a work in progress, but we are better today than way back."
Oklahoma's strength on offense is its ability to run the ball, and Samaje Perine has made the most of his opportunities as he currently ranks second in the conference with 568 yards, scoring a league-best nine TDs along the way. When the Sooners decide to air it out, there is no shortage of skilled players ready to make plays, and it is the job of quarterback Trevor Knight to get them the ball, although he is completing only 55.1 percent of his passes while tossing only six TDs and five INTs. Sterling Shepard is the team's top threat down the field, having hauled in 34 balls for 714 yards and four scores. Shepard's average of 119 ypg ranks him second in the league.
OU is tied for first in the Big 12 in sacks allowed with only five, while its effort on the other side has resulted in 16 quarterback takedowns.
Continuing on the defensive side of the ball, the Sooners have been solid against the run (116 ypg, five TDs), but have been torched through the air (275.7 ypg, 10 TDs) -- the latter ranking them last in the 10-team conference. Dominique Alexander and Jordan Evans are tied for the team lead in total tackles with 49, while Eric Striker has 4.5 sacks and Zack Sanchez has five INTs (tops in the league, tied for second nationally).
Oklahoma used a couple of scoring plays on big returns, one a 91-yard kickoff return by Alex Ross and the other a 43-yard interception return by Sanchez to help thwart the upset bid of the Texas Longhorns last week at the Cotton Bowl. Oklahoma had a tough time getting into an offensive rhythm, totaling only 232 total yards. Knight went 12-of-20 for 129 yards with a TD, while Perine tallied only 62 yards on 18 carries. He did score on a 13-yard run in the final frame. Shepard finished with four catches for 63 yards and a TD.
Statistically speaking, Texas dominated the game in amassing 482 total yards, more than doubling the Sooners in first downs (24-11), and winding up with a significant edge in time of possession (37:58 to 22:02). Oklahoma gave up 334 yards and a pair of scores via the pass, coming up with only the one turnover on the Sanchez pick-six, and two sacks. Evans and Alexander were among three OU players with double-digit stops in the game.
Stoops gave credit to Texas, before expressing his pleasure with having bounced back from the loss to TCU.
"I would first like to, again, compliment Coach (Charlie) Strong, his staff and the Texas football team. They played a really hard-fought game today. It was an exciting game. We made our plays and they made their plays."
He went on to say, "I thought overall that it was a good team win in that we scored on special teams, had a defensive touchdown, offense gets a touchdown in the second half when we needed it. Everybody had a hand in it. Again, there are some parts of it that we need to improve on, but any time you come down here and win it's a positive for us and we will try to keep building on it."