Kansas State has traditionally been one of the toughest places in the Big 12 to play. For some reason, that simply hasn’t fazed Oklahoma.
The last two trips stand out even more because of the mental makeup of that Sooners team heading into Manhattan.
In 2011, OU was coming off a stunning loss. No, seriously, a real stunner. OU saw its legendary home winning streak snapped against Texas Tech? Seemed unfathomable, but the Red Raiders walked out of Norman with the 41-38 victory.
The next week OU was at KSU, and the Wildcats were actually ranked higher heading into the contest. OU left no doubt when the game was over, dominating KSU in 58-17 victory.
Two years wasn’t quite the same story but the same overall premise. At this point in the season, OU was 8-2 but most would have called it a soft 8-2. OU was two weeks removed from a 41-12 beatdown at Baylor, and KSU was the gut-check game.
The Sooners passed that test with a 41-31 victory.
“I don’t know,” said head coach Bob Stoops about trying to explain it. “We’ve been fortunate to execute well. Go in there and know it’s going to be a tough environment. It’s players making plays.”
So will it happen again Saturday? Once again the toughness, mental and physical, is being questioned about the Sooners. Coming off the upset loss to Texas last week and knowing what’s ahead in Manhattan, it’s another crossroads game.
With Kansas State, you know you’re going to get physicality. You know you’re going to get a group that maximizes every last bit of talent it has.
If the Sooners do the same, they win. It’s not bragging, it’s just the way it is. If OU’s best athletes plays at their best, they win this game.
Senior wide receiver Sterling Shepard remembers that 2013 team, was an integral part of that club that went from 7-2 to 11-2 and a Sugar Bowl victory. He knows what it takes.
He’s also seen the other side with last year. After being a 4-0, OU finished the season 4-5 for a humbling 8-5 campaign.
“It’s a different team, but we have to have the same mentality (2013),” Shepard said. “After a tough loss like this in a tough game like that, it can go either one of two directions. It can go down from here or go up. I’ve been on a team where both ways have happened.
“That’s something the leaders have to take into account. We have to do a good job of reiterating that to the young guys.”
Strangely enough, when KSU has visited Norman, it has meant good things for the Wildcats, too. KSU has won its two games at Owen Field, including a 31-30 thriller last year. For OU fans, they sure hope that quirky trend of road teams winning in this series continues once again.