OU vs. Kansas State football: Four takeaways as Spencer Rattler, Sooners beat Wildcats
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Spencer Rattler and OU’s offense got booed plenty Saturday.
The jeers rained down from the student section and the upper decks. They echoed through the end zones and across the suites.
Only this time, the boos were from the purple-clad folks cheering on Kansas State.
Rattler got under their skin, with an efficient, mostly clean performance as the Sooners broke through against the Wildcats and came up big on offense in a 37-31 win at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday.
Rattler, booed in last week’s home nail-biter over West Virginia, was 22 of 25 for 243 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He did throw an interception, a third-quarter pick on third down that at least pinned the Wildcats inside their own 10.
The Sooners’ offense showed some new wrinkles, adjusting to not only Kansas State’s defense but their own limitations that have become evident in recent weeks.
But as much as anything, Rattler showed he was in command.
He was smarter — and more effective — running the ball. He didn’t always make perfect decisions on where he threw it, but he didn’t force throws in situations that could greatly hurt the cause.
Rattler’s Heisman candidacy isn’t going to be revived by the win, but faith in the Sooners’ offense has been, and plenty of that credit goes to Rattler.
Rattler and the Sooners figure to face more harsh treatment on the road this season, not only because of the quarterback’s status but also because of OU’s lame-duck status in the Big 12.
Here are three other takeaways from the Sooners’ win:
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Offensive line remains a concern
While Rattler performed better, the offensive line continued to be a big issue for OU.
The same group that started a week ago — Anton Harrison and Tyrese Robinson at tackles, Marquis Hayes and Chris Murray at the guard spots and Andrew Raym at center — started against the Wildcats.
OU went backwards on its first drive, with problems protecting across that front.
The group also struggled with penalties.
The Sooners were flagged 10 times for 85 yards, with seven of those against offensive linemen — costing OU 60 yards.
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Defense bends, nearly breaks
While the Sooners’ offense showed plenty of promise, their defense wasn’t exactly crisp.
The Wildcats started with a long drive that brought them to the shadow of the goal line before Reggie Grimes popped the ball loose from Jacardia Wright at the OU 11.
Nik Bonitto picked up the fumble and returned it 70 yards to the Kansas State 19, the longest fumble return in school history.
The previous longest was Cory Heinecke’s 69-yard return against Air Force in 2001.
The takeaway was the Sooners’ only one of the game, with OU’s Jaden Davis failing to secure a pair of chances at interceptions from Wildcats quarterback Skyler Thompson.
Deuce Vaughn, who had a monster game in last season’s Kansas State win in Norman, had another big one Saturday, rushing for 51 yards on 15 carries and catching 10 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.
The Wildcats outgained the Sooners 420-392.
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More review madness in Manhattan
Kansas State kicker Ty Zentner had time to circle around the ball, and wait for it to reach the 10-yard mark on his kick late in the third quarter.
But it quickly became apparent why he had so much time. The ball hit off the bottom of Zentner’s foot after his initial kick.
When play was stopped for a review, Sooners coach Lincoln Riley was so confident the play would be overturned, that he called his offense onto the field.
So Riley was incensed when referee Kevin Hassell turned on his mic and announced that the play stood and the Wildcats would get the ball, just after cutting the OU lead to 27-17.
The replays on the video board in the stadium indicated that it was the 10-yard mark, rather than the potential of a double-kick, that was being reviewed.
After pleading his case, Riley officially challenged the call.
There was a lengthy stoppage, with the Sooners’ defense making their way onto the field once, before Hassell announced that the call had been overturned and the Sooners would get the ball.
Two years ago, the Sooners mounted a furious fourth-quarter comeback that appeared to get even more life when Brayden Willis was ruled to have recovered an onside kick with 1:43 remaining.
But after review, Trejan Bridges was ruled to have touched the ball with his right knee before it reached the 10-yard mark, with replay officials ruling Bridges wasn’t blocked into making the contact. The Wildcats ran out the lock to secure a 48-41 win.
Saturday, though Rattler threw an interception a few plays later, the change ate up time and put the Wildcats in a more difficult position on the field. Kansas State’s subsequent drive ended with a turnover on downs — which came after the initial call on the field of a completion was overturned and ruled an incompletion on fourth down.