KANSAS CITY – Most expected the Big 12 Conference Championship game to be finished at halftime. Kansas State ensured it was.
The No. 13 Wildcats won perhaps the biggest game in the history of their program when they defeated No. 1 Oklahoma 35-7 on Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Kansas State’s win places the Wildcats in the Fiesta Bowl. After the game, Fiesta Bowl president Leon Levitt invited the Wildcats to play in the Jan. 2 bowl. It will be Kansas State’s first BCS Bowl. Oklahoma (12-1) will probably still play in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship Jan. 4.
“(The win) sets the tone for years to come,” Kansas State quarterback Ell Roberson said. “We believe in each other more than ever now.”
The Wildcats’ victory could shake up Missouri’s bowl plans. Alamo Bowl representatives had been considering Kansas State (11-3) and Oklahoma State (9-3) but might take a look at the Tigers.
The first of Kansas State’s three second-quarter touchdowns happened on a breakdown by the Sooners’ No. 1-ranked defense. On first-and-10 at Kansas State’s 37, Wildcats quarterback Ell Roberson threw to receiver James Terry. Cornerback Antonio Perkins was defending Terry and fell to one knee while attempting to intercept the ball. Terry sidestepped Perkins and strong safety Donte Nicholson and ran 25 yards to the end zone.
Terry’s 63-yard reception was the longest pass play against the Sooners all season.
“That’s one of those situations that you have to make a play when you have an opportunity,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.
In front of a sold-out crowd of 79,451, Kansas State padded its lead 2 1/2 minutes later when Darren Sproles caught a pass at the line of scrimmage and ran 60 yards. Sproles finished with 235 yards rushing and 88 yards receiving.
Oklahoma scored in the first three minutes on running back Kejuan Jones’ 42-yard run. Roberson found tight end Brian Casey wide open for a 19-yard touchdown reception to tie at 7 with one minute gone in the second quarter.
The Sooners had several more scoring opportunities, but failed to convert any of them.
Oklahoma kicker Trey DiCarlo missed two field goal attempts from 44 and 28 yards. DiCarlo had missed one this season before Saturday.
Before DiCarlo’s second field goal attempt, Mark Clayton, one of six All-Americans for Oklahoma, caught a pass but slipped after running two yards. The Wildcats answered the miscue with a 10-play, 80-yard drive ending with Roberson’s 10-yard pass to receiver Antoine Polite.
“They made the plays that mattered,” Stoops said. “We had the opportunity to make the plays and didn’t.”
Oklahoma quarterback Jason White, a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, looked nothing like he did in the regular season. White was 27-for-50 for 298 yards, but threw no touchdowns and two interceptions.
The first interception came in the Wildcats’ end zone. The Sooners had driven 85 yards to Kansas State’s 5 when safety James McGill made his sixth interception of the season. Linebacker Ted Sims intercepted White the second time, returning it 27 yards for a touchdown with 10:16 left.
In the span of four plays in the second quarter, White took two blistering hits that might have affected him. On second-and-nine at Kansas State’s 12, defensive end Andrew Shull tackled White and was penalized for roughing the passer. After his first interception, White went down again.
They hit us where we were weak, and that’s what we have to get better at,” White said. “We have one game left, and we have a lot to learn from this game.”
Backup Paul Thompson took snaps for the final five minutes of the game.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said his pregame keys to winning ended up true.
“I said you can’t turn the ball over. We didn’t turn the ball over,” Snyder said. “I said you can’t give up big plays. We didn’t give up big plays.”
Roberson, a senior, was 10-of-17 for 227 yards. His four touchdown passes are a Big 12 Championship record. The Wildcats have won seven straight.
Snyder pointed to Roberson as the means to his team’s success.
“Ell Roberson, toughest guy in the country,” Snyder said. “He’s got such a command of what we do.”