Oklahoma football: OU takes control in 2nd half, downs KSU 37-31

Oct 2, 2021; Manhattan, Kansas, USA;Kansas State Wildcats wide receiver Keenan Garber (1) runs against Oklahoma Sooners safety Jordan Mukes (29) during the third quarter at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 2, 2021; Manhattan, Kansas, USA;Kansas State Wildcats wide receiver Keenan Garber (1) runs against Oklahoma Sooners safety Jordan Mukes (29) during the third quarter at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports /

The formula for staying in games with the No. 6 Oklahoma football Sooners is controlling the clock and keeping the ball away from the OU offense.

Kansas State held a master class in that strategy in the first half of its game against visiting Oklahoma on Saturday, holding the Sooners to just three offensive possessions in the first 30 minutes.

OU made the most of those first-half possessions, however, scoring all three times it had the ball and taking a 13-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Kansas State possessed the ball for nearly 20 minutes in the opening half, double what Oklahoma’s possession time was.

The Sooners came out in the second half and scored touchdowns on their first two possessions to stretch their advantage to 27-10 midway through the third quarter.

37. 815. 31. 823. Final

Kansas State, as has been its history in recent seasons against Oklahoma, kept chipping away and refusing to go away, scoring a third-quarter touchdown of its own, cutting into OU’s lead at 27-17.

On the ensuing K-State kickoff, the Wildcats caught the Sooners by surprise with an on-side kick that at first appeared to be successfully executed. The call on the field was Kansas State ball, which was upheld by an official booth review. But it was subsequently overturned by a bizarre, heads-up challenge from OU head coach Lincoln Riley contending that the ball had been kicked twice by the kicker constituting an illegal touch.

Riley’s challenge was upheld, and as a result of the double call reversal, Oklahoma took possession at the K-State 36 yard line. The Wildcats survived that short-field Sooner possession when Spencer Rattler was intercepted at the K-State seven-yard line. The Cats were able to advance the ball to the OU 48-yard line, but were forced to turn the ball back to the Sooners when a gutsy fourth-and-13 call by K-State head coach Chris Klieman failed.

Oklahoma tok possession at its own 48 and drove 52 yards in six plays, with Rattler connecting with Jeremiah Hall on a one-yard shovel pass for the Sooners’ fourth touchdown of the day and a commanding 34-17 lead.

Kansas State scored a touchdown on an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive to make it 34-24 with a little under six minutes remaining in the game.

Oklahoma countered with a 47-yard field goal by Gabe Brkic to expand the Sooner lead to 37-24 with only 93 seconds remaining.

That’s when the Sooners got really sloppy, and it could have cost them the game.

OU offensive lineman Tyrese Robinson was called for unsportsmanlike conduct on the successful Brkic field goal. It was a dead-ball foul, with the 15-yard penalty assessed on the Sooner kickoff. That moved the Sooner kickoff from its orginal spot at the 35-yard line back to the 20-yard line.

Gabe Brkic’s kickoff was fielded by Kansas State returner Malik Knowles at the seven-yard line, who raced down the far sideline virtually untouched, 93 yards for a K-State touchdown. And that’s when things got really interesting.

That set up Kansas State’s second on-side kick try of the game in a one-score contest. The onside attempt appeared to be unsuccessful when OU’s Drake Stoops caught the kick. Right before the kick attempt, however, Riley had called for a timeout, nullifying the first attempt and awarding the Wildcats a second attempt.

Jordan Haselwood covered the second attempt, and with Kansas State out of time outs with just over a minute left in the game, Oklahoma went into the victory formation.  A couple of kneel downs by Rattler was all that was necessary to preserve the Sooner victory. It was Oklahoma’s 13th win in a row, the second longest active streak among FBS teams.

Rattler, who was booed by Oklahoma fans in the win over West Virginia a week ago, played an outstanding game, save for his one interception on an underthrown ball. Rattler completed 22 of 25 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns.

The Sooners’ offense, widely criticized in recent OU wins, was highly efficient, scoring on seven of its eight possessions in the game.

Kennedy Brooks rushed for 92 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Marvin Mims caught four passes for 71 yards.

Once again, the Sooners allowed an opponent to come back from a double-digit deficit and be a position to win the game, which is especially troubling with the annual rivalry game with Texas coming up next week. Texas will be the best team Oklahoma has faced so far this season.

It was Oklahoma’s fourth win this season of seven or fewer points, which has brought widespread criticism of the Sooners’ high national ranking.

But a win is a win — as we’ve been saying far too often this season — and the Sooners remain undefeated at 5-0. And they were able to get the monkey off their back by snapping the two=game losing streak against Kansas State.

On to Dallas and the State Fair of Texas. Next up: OU-Texas week.