STILLWATER, Okla. — Ahead 10-7 in the middle of Saturday’s first quarter, Kansas State appeared ready for a dogfight against Oklahoma State. But a pair of quick touchdowns — in the span of 11 seconds — turned a three-point lead into an 11-point deficit.
The Wildcats never recovered.
Oklahoma State went on to win 31-20 at Boone Pickens Stadium to hand K-State its first loss of the season.
“Credit Oklahoma State,” K-State head coach Chris Klieman said. “They beat us today. We didn’t play our best game today. They beat us at the line of scrimmage.”
The game followed an eerily similar script to the one two years ago.
That season, just as this year, K-State entered 3-0. The zero in the loss column was erased after a 26-13 victory by the Cowboys — with a final score belying the one-sided nature of the contest.
Saturday, the Wildcats (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) acquitted themselves better.
Malik Knowles’ 99-yard kickoff return gave the visitors the 10-7 edge.
Oklahoma State (4-0, 1-0) responded on its ensuing possession, with a 20-yard touchdown reception from Brennan Presley helping the Cowboys retake the lead, 14-10, at the 3:26 mark of the first quarter. Knowles tried to replicate his feat on the next kickoff — with suboptimal results.
Oklahoma State leveled him at the 7-yard line.
Then, it got worse.
K-State quarterback Will Howard couldn’t corral a low snap from center Noah Johnson. The ball bounced into the end zone. Oklahoma State’s star linebacker, Malcolm Rodriguez, jumped on it for the touchdown. Following Alex Hale’s extra point, the Cowboys led 21-10.
Two touchdowns. Eleven seconds. Any semblance of momentum gone for K-State.
After Oklahoma State ran off 24 straight points, K-State scored the next 10: Taiten Winkel knocked in a 45-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, and Deuce Vaughn made something out of nothing on a broken play, as he scored on a 55-yard reception (on a pass from third-year sophomore signal-caller Jaren Lewis, the first touchdown toss of his college career) in the third quarter.
Given the sizable hole the Wildcats dug themselves at halftime, however, the 10 consecutive points only made the final score look more respectable.
Not that they didn’t have their chances, though.
The hosts’ only two scoring opportunities in the last 30 minutes ended in missed field goals.
But K-State couldn’t trim the deficit below the final margin.
The Cowboys were better through the air (321 yards to 198) and on the ground (123 to 78). They also won the turnover battle, 2-0: aside from the fumble Oklahoma State recovered for a score, Lewis also threw an interception.
Junior quarterback Spencer Sanders played a near-flawless game for the Cowboys, completing 64.7% (22-for-34) of his passes for 344 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He added 15 yards and a touchdown (on eight carries) on the ground.
Vaughn’s streak of 100-yard-rushing performances ended at five. He finished with only 22 yards on 13 attempts — an average of just 1.7 yards per carry.
Splitting quarterback duties for the second straight week, Howard got the starting nod again. He struggled in the passing game, though, connecting on only 4-of-12 throws (33.3%) for 50 yards. But he was the team’s leading rusher, with 28 yards on three carries.
Lewis went 10-for-19 for 148 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
K-State returns home next week, hosting Oklahoma at 2:30 p.m. at Bill Snyder Family. The game will air nationally on Fox.