OU's leaders set tone in 55-0 shutout victory at Kansas State

Sooners needed to bounce back against Kansas State. And it was the leaders who paved the way in a 55-0 win. (Video by SoonerSports)

MANHATTAN, Kan. – There really was no way to know how Oklahoma was going to respond Saturday afternoon at Kansas State.

The Sooners, coming off a disappointing and borderline embarrassing showing against Texas in the Red River Showdown, were an enigma heading into Wagner Field.

What the Sooners have left in the tank remains to be seen, but what they had against the Wildcats would have been enough against just about any team in the country in OU’s 55-0 shutout victory.

The mentality all week from the players was about how everyone had to be accountable. Nobody could be the weakest link. That type of mindset starts with the leaders, and they showed it early, showed it often and set the tone.

The first drive OU went 75 yards in five plays in 1:04, culminating with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield to Sterling Shepard.

Shepard, who finished the day with four catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns, could have been brought down near the goal line. But not on this day. He knew what he had to do.

“I’m one of the leaders of the team,” Shepard said. “If the younger guys see me hanging my head, then they’re going to do the same. I had to watch that this week and make sure they knew there was still a long season left. There’s still a lot of football to be played.”

It was about being dialed in, and it’s hard to be more dialed in than what Mayfield was in the first half. He was 18-of-21 for 235 yards and five touchdowns as OU put this one away early with a 35-0 halftime lead.

Mayfield said as much people want to say it’s about the anger from the loss to the Longhorns, it was more about what the team did this week compared to being discouraged about last week.

The key, of course, is making sure that continues.

“No, I just think we had our best practice this week, and we translated that onto the field,” Mayfield said. “We just got to realize we need to do that every week and have that same intensity during the week.”

This wasn’t just an offensive showcase, though. This wasn’t a game where the Sooners needed to put up 40-50 points to win. The defense, whose toughness had no doubt been questioned all week after Texas rushed for more than 300 yards last week, rose to the occasion.

To no surprise, again, it started with the leaders. Cornerback Zack Sanchez had two interceptions, including a 38-yard return for a touchdown in the first minute of the second half.

Sanchez is known for his vocal leadership Saturdays, but he knew he had to try something different this time around.

“I get vocal on Saturdays but during the rest of the week I tend not to,” Sanchez said. “Just this week, getting in guys’ ears and telling them to forget about last week. That’s not who we are, that’s not us. Don’t worry about anything outside the locker room or outside these hundred guys.

“We know how good we are and what we’re capable of. Keep pushing, we’ll be all right. If we keep winning week in week out, we’ll be fine.”

The defense forced three turnovers with Jordan Thomas earning his third interception of the season. And if not for a last-minute first down, OU would have limited KSU to less than 100 total yards of offense.

OU, in stark contrast, had 568 yards of total offense as a complete team effort punctuated a major bounce back outing in shutting out KSU for the first time since 1996 and its first home shutout since 1991.

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