The rematch of last season’s Big 12 Conference championship game looks like a good opportunity for Oklahoma to get revenge against Kansas State.
The Wildcats demoralized the Sooners 35-7 last year, ending Oklahoma’s perfect season and showing that the Sooners were not invincible before the Bowl Championship Series title game. Oklahoma then lost 21-14 to LSU in the Sugar Bowl, ending its chance to share the national championship with USC.
“I don’t look at it as revenge but I think our guys understand we have to play better to beat them,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference.
Kansas State (2-3, 0-2) enters Saturday’s game a much weaker team and No. 2 Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0) is riding the momentum of a hard-fought 12-0 win against No. 9 Texas. The Sooners are in a three-way tie for first in the Big 12-South Division.
Regardless of predictions of an easy Oklahoma win, Stoops said his team must keep in mind last season’s game and make sure they reverse the outcome.
“They took it to us last year and beat us,” Stoops said. “For us to have an opportunity to win this game we’ve got to play in a better way.”
Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week Jonathan Jackson is part of an Oklahoma defense that held Texas, the nation’s No. 2 running team, to 154 yards, 200 below its season average. This is the second consecutive week an Oklahoma player has claimed defensive player of the week honors.
Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson won the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week Award, despite the Sooners scoring just 12 points Saturday. The freshman ran for a season-high 225 yards on 32 carries, becoming the first Oklahoma running back to begin his career with five games of 100-plus rushing yards.
Kansas State lost to rival Kansas on Saturday for the first time since 1992. Leading 21-17 in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats could not stop a Jayhawks comeback and lost 31-28.
“I don’t think we have the depth that we had a year ago,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. “We’re probably not as physical a football team as we have been in the past.”
An unbalanced offensive attack and a defense that allows the second most points in the conference (30.2 per game) has caused problems for the Wildcats this season.
Running back Darren Sproles, widely considered a preseason candidate for the Heisman Trophy Award, has struggled under the focus of opposing defenses. Although he has been inconsistent, Sproles leads the conference in all-purpose yards (1,030) and is the fourth-leading rusher in the conference with 136.8 yards per game.
Snyder said Sproles will not return kickoffs or punts Saturday; the first time he has not done so this season, in an effort to relieve some of the pressure.
“Whether it was the Heisman, or the pressures of winning, or the pressure of being a better football team, I think he was impacted by all of that,” Snyder said.
THAT OTHER OKLAHOMA TEAM: Oklahoma State (5-0, 2-0) has steadily garnered national attention. The Cowboys have won all their games convincingly behind one of the most powerful running attacks in the nation.
“I think it’s been exciting week after week,” coach Les Miles said. “With each successive victory, the opportunities in the season rise.”
The No. 15 Cowboys lead the conference with 41.2 points per game and are second in rushing with 285.2 yards per game.
Running back Vernand Morency leads the nation in rushing at 173.8 yards per game with eight touchdowns. Miles said there are many reasons his team focuses on its running attack.
“I think it breeds good team morale,” he said. “I think it makes your defense tougher. It makes the defense get off the field for longer breaks.”
The running game also opens up the field on the rare occasions the Cowboys do pass.
Oklahoma State leads the conference with a 182.4 passing efficiency but has thrown the ball only 58 times in five games. That is less than half the attempts of Texas, who has thrown the ball the second-least times in the conference (117).
“Hopefully we’ll still rush the ball for the same amount of yards,” Miles said. “But hopefully our passing game will become more efficient.”