Oklahoma football: Three telling takeaways from OU’s win at K-State

Oct 2, 2021; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Kansas State Wildcats defensive back Reggie Stubblefield (1) breaks up a pass intended for Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Marvin Mims (17) during the second quarter of a game at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 2, 2021; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Kansas State Wildcats defensive back Reggie Stubblefield (1) breaks up a pass intended for Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Marvin Mims (17) during the second quarter of a game at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports /

The losing streak to that thorn-in-the-side team from the Sunflower State is over, but it was hardly easy for the No. 6-ranked Oklahoma football team.

For the fourth time in five games, the Sooners have failed to cover a double-digit spread, surviving with a win of seven or fewer points.

While OU’s 37-31 win snapped Kansas State’s two-game winning streak over Lincoln Riley and the Sooners, it extended another streak. The win marked the Sooners’ 13th consecutive win, the second longest active win streak in college football, and was their 27th victory in the last 29 true road games.

The road team in this series has now won eight of the last 11 games and Oklahoma’s seventh in the last eight trips to Kansas State.

The Sooners had just one full offensive possession in the first quarter on Saturday, and that came as a result of a defensive fumble recovery on Kansas State’s opening drive. LB Nik Bonitto scooped up a fumble at the OU 11-yard line and returned it 70 yards to the K-State 19-yard line.

The Sooners advanced the ball to the K-State one-yard line before backup QB Caleb Williams fumbled the center snap and a false-start penalty pushed the ball back to the 18. From there OU had to settle for a field goal by Gabe Brkic instead of what should have been an almost certain touchdown.

Oklahoma got just two more offensive possessions before halftime and had just 141 yards of offense in the first 30 minutes, but still managed to take a 13-10 lead into the locker room at the half.

The Sooners were even more efficient in the second half, scoring in four of their five possessions. Twice in the second half, Oklahoma led by 17 points, but K-State, behind sixth-year senior quarterback Skylar Thompson refused to fold. The Wildcats have done their most damage in the fourth quarter this season, and it almost paid off again on Saturday.

Coming into the Oklahoma game, Kansas State had outscored opponents 38-7 in the final frame, and the Cats’ 14 fourth-quarter points made it a six-point game with a little over a minute remaining. But the Sooners held on for another close win to go 5-0 on the season.

Here are three major takeaways from the game:

Spencer Rattler directs  a highly efficient Sooner offense

Spencer Rattler had arguably his best performance of the season in the win on Saturday, and Oklahoma needed every bit of it to avoid what would have been a third straight loss to the purple-clad Sooner killers from Kansas State.

Rattler completed 88 percent of his pass attempts (22 of 25) for 243 yards and a couple of touchdowns. He also ran for 24 yards.

He did throw an interception on a deep underthrown ball, but also completed a 40-yard pass to Marvin Mims, who ended up with four catches for 71 yards. The 40-yard pass completion was the longest pass play by the Sooners in their last three games.

The Sooners scored on seven of their eight possessions in the game, averaging 6.5 yards per play, and totaled 393 yards of offense

Defense is struggling to get off the field

Everyone agrees that this is the best defensive unit Oklahoma has had since Lincoln Riley arrived in Norman. While it has shown greatness in spurts, the fact remains that the Sooners are not getting enough defensive stops. Opponents are being allowed to keep drives alive and take valuable time off the clock.

This results in fewer offensive possessions, which is clearly the gospel this season on how to beat the Sooners. Keep the ball out of Spencer Rattler’s hands and shorten the game.

In the opening half alone, Kansas State mounted drives of 12 plays for 62 yards, 10 plays for 75 yards and 19 plays for 63 yards. Fortunately for the Sooners, those three long drives only resulted in 10 points, but they consumed valuable time off the clock.

K-State also had an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the second half.

On only one possession did the OU defense hold the Kansas State offense to a three-and-out.

By comparison, Oklahoma only had one scoring drive in the game that required more than nine plays (a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter).

With some of OU’s most difficult games of the season looming straight ahead, the Sooner defense is going to have to find ways to get more defensive stops and limit the amount of plays and yards they give up. What this amounts to is getting the ball to Sooner offense more frequently.

Offensive line mistakes continue to haunt the Sooners

The offensive line did a better job protecting Spencer Rattler and blocking on run plays this week, but they are still creating too many costly mistakes. The same five offensive linemen that started the West Virginia game started at K-State.

There were 10 penalties called on Oklahoma on Saturday costing 60 yards. Eight of those were against the offensive line.

A false start after the Sooners had reached the K-State one-yard line on its opening possession moved the ball back to the six-yard line and eventually cost OU a touchdown.

Late in the game, an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on Sooner guard Tyrese Robinson after a made field goal by Gabe Brkic forced the Sooners to kick off from the 20-yard line. That kick was fielded short by K-State burner Malik Knowles, who returned it 93 yards, virtually untouched, for a touchdown that brought the Wildcats within six points of the Sooners.

These are the kind of mental mistakes that drive head coaches crazy and, more importantly, can cost a ball game.