OU football: Five takeaways from Sooners' 38-35 loss over Kansas State
NORMAN — OU opened Big 12 play with a stunning 38-35 loss to Kansas State on Saturday at Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
The Sooners built up a big lead, let it slip away and couldn't recover.
Here are five takeaways from the loss:
1. Worse than shaky defense
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After OU went up 28-7 in the third quarter, the Sooners seemed like they were a stop and score away from locking up the game.
But the Sooners couldn't get that stop, OU's offense slowed to a crawl and Kansas State not only kept the game within reach but tied it by the time the fourth quarter was four minutes old.
On back-to-back drives, Kansas State completed passes of 77 and 78 yards to set up quick scores and make it tight.
Both looked to be long touchdowns after coverage breakdowns but Sooners safety Pat Fields recovered to knock first Deuce Vaughn and then Keyon Mozee out of bounds. All it did was delay touchdowns, though.
On the next drive, Vaughn had a 35-yard catch after an OU turnover gave the Wildcats the ball deep in Sooners territory.
After a blocked punt, the Wildcats tied it up.
Kansas State scored on five consecutive drives, with OU's defense not getting a stop again until the final minute.
In addition to the chunk plays by Kansas State that helped them quickly close the gap, the Sooners also remained inept at coming up with turnovers.
Yes, they had one in the season-opener against Missouri State but that came with the game far in hand.
Kansas State didn't turn the ball over. Since the start of the 2018 season, the Sooners have a minus-13 turnover margin.
Sooners defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has constantly preached the importance of turnovers since he arrived before the 2019 season but that emphasis hasn't produced results in that regard.
Wildcats quarterback Skylar Thompson hadn't thrown for 300 yards in any of his previous 33 appearances. Saturday, though, he threw for 334 yards and a touchdown, completing 16 of 23 passes.
2. Offensive stall
While the Sooners' defense melted down, the offense didn't do anything to bail them out when things started getting tight.
After OU went up 35-14 late in the third quarter, the offense fell apart.
The Sooners picked up just 50 yards on 20 plays after Seth McGowan's touchdown run put OU up 35-14 late in the third.
OU's last five drives ended with three punts, a fumble and an interception. The interception, in the closing minutes, ended any chance of the Sooners pulling a rabbit out of their hats.
3. Offensive line shakeup
After struggling to run the ball in the season-opener, the Sooners were needing a strong showing on the ground against the Wildcats.
After Charleston Rambo started the game with a 21-yard run on a reverse, OU went back to struggling in the run game.
Over their first two drives, the Sooners averaged just 1.7 yards per carry outside of that piece of Rambo trickery on the first play.
The Sooners also struggled to give Spencer Rattler much time to work, with much of the pressure coming from the left side.
After the second series, starting left tackle Erik Swenson was replaced by freshman Anton Harrison. Harrison was initially listed as the top left tackle on the depth chart but missed the opener.
The change was pretty apparent quickly, as the Sooners moved the ball well on the ground throughout the rest of the first half.
That positive momentum was short-lived though as the running game ground to a halt along with the rest of the offense.
OU ran for just 23 yards after halftime.
The Sooners got another scare on the line in the second half when center Creed Humphrey was banged up. Humphrey appeared to be battling some leg issues for a couple plays before going down and having to be helped off the field.
Ian McIver came on in Humphrey's place. But it didn't take long for Humphrey to get back out there, as the Sooners collectively breathed a sigh of relief that their top offensive lineman appeared to have escaped serious injury.
Humphrey returned, but the Sooners' offensive line was still shaky, especially when it came to penalties. OU finished with six penalties for 45 yards, but plenty of those came against offensive linemen. There were a couple other holding calls against offensive linemen that don't show up in those numbers after they were negated by offsetting penalties.
4. All accounted for
The biggest question going into the game was who would be able to play and who wouldn't, after the Sooners were missed well more than a dozen players on the two-deep in the opener against Missouri State.
But there were only five out Saturday.
That, combined with the Kansas State players that were out — especially in the secondary — made the loss even more stunning.
The three suspended players — wide receiver Trejan Bridges, defensive end Ronnie Perkins and running back Rhamondre Stevenson — weren't on the sidelines. Cornerback Kendall Dennis, a freshman, and graduate transfer receiver Obi Obialo were also out, though both were sitting with other inactive players on the wall behind OU's sideline signaling that they weren't being held out for COVID-related precautions.
5. Rattler falls apart
For much of the game, redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler looked every bit as good as he did in the season-opener.
Rattler was 26 of 30 for 329 yards after his 17-yard pass to Charleston Rambo with the Sooners up 35-21 late in the third.
From that point, though, Rattler looked very much like a redshirt freshman making his first Big 12 start.
He was 4 of 11 for 48 yards the rest of the way, with a 25-yard pass to Theo Howard being the only completion longer than 10 yards the rest of the day.
Rattler's last three passes failed to find the mark, with two incompletions and the interception that sealed Kansas State's win rounding out his day.