OU's mistakes prove costly

Too many mental mistakes and turnovers have OU out of the championship hunt in a 31-30 loss to KSU.

NORMAN, Okla. – October has been a tough month for Oklahoma. The Sooners entered the month with realistic dreams and aspirations of another Big 12 conference championship and to at least be in the conversation for the four-team college football playoff.

OU leaves the month with two losses and a lot of lingering questions following a 31-30 defeat to No. 14 Kansas State on Saturday afternoon at Owen Field.

For one reason or another, the Sooners (5-2, 2-2) haven’t been able to put together a complete game during the month. They can fix things in one area only to have things fall apart in others.

The offense, for the most part, wasn’t the issue. OU racked up 533 yards on 78 plays and scored at least 30 points for the ninth consecutive game. Sterling Shepard had one of the best individual performances in OU history with 15 catches for 197 yards and a touchdown.

With less than four minutes left in the game, OU coach Bob Stoops didn’t hesitate to turn the game over to his all-American kicker, Michael Hunnicutt.

Hunnicutt has made a lot of clutch kicks for the Sooners, but this didn’t feel like one of those. It was 19 yards. It was less than an extra point. He is nicknamed “Moneycutt” for a reason.

He hooked it left, and the OU defense couldn’t get off the field in the final 3:53 cementing more frustration in Norman.

“You’re always thinking the best, expecting it to go in,” senior outside linebacker Geneo Grissom said. “But as a defense, you got to be ready for anything.”

Hunnicutt’s miss is going to stand out, but it just highlights another uneven afternoon full of glaring mistakes. The Sooners lived on the razor’s edge in last week’s win against Texas, winning a game statistically it never should have.

Saturday was the opposite. OU did a lot of things right, but mental mistakes and turnovers have championship hopes dashed in Norman before November even hits.

“Too many big mistakes you can’t overcome,” Bob Stoops said.

OU quarterback Trevor Knight had one of his best games, going 26 of 32 for 318 yards and three touchdowns. Solid. But he also had an awful decision on an out route backed up at OU’s own 1 yard line that was picked off and returned for a touchdown.

Junior wide receiver Durron Neal had three catches for 33 yards, including his first career receiving touchdown as a Sooner. Not bad. But OU went to the trick play well one too many times when Neal’s pass was picked off in the end zone in third quarter.

Neal had a touchdown pass on the same type of play last month against West Virginia. What worked in September just wasn’t cutting it this time around.

Hunnicutt entered the game 8 of 9 on field goals and drilled a 38-yarder with 4:24 left in the first half. But he missed a 32-yarder as time expired in the first half.

And following Neal’s touchdown, which cut the KSU lead to 31-30, his extra point was blocked. The missed 19-yarder just capped a day he would like to forget.

“Told me he was rushing it,” Bob Stoops said.

Every single OU player and coach said the same thing – the blame isn’t on Hunnicutt. OU had a first-and-goal at the 4 yard line on the drive but three runs by Samaje Perine didn’t net the go-ahead touchdown.

Fullback Aaron Ripkowski was ejected in the first quarter for targeting so he wasn’t out there, while tight end Blake Bell was dinged up late in the drive.

The Sooners had two of their best goal line blockers out, and the Wildcats stuffed the freshman from getting his second touchdown of the game.

“There was nothing there,” Perine said. “They had six down linemen on that side. It was a hard look for us, and they came up with the big play.”

The Wildcats (5-1, 3-0), meanwhile, played mistake-free football. No turnovers, no miscues in the kicking game. And for the second time in as many trips, it’s Bill Snyder’s bunch heading back to Manhattan, Kan., with the upset victory.

And the Sooners with a lot of questions and gut-check moments coming in November.

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