History does not repeat itself; OU thwarts KSU bid

Sooners Illustrated Editor Jay C. Upchurch grades Oklahoma's 31-21 win over Kansas State. Pictured above: Sooner linebacker Rufus Alexander forces a fumble on Kansas State quarterback Dylan Meier. Alexander led the Sooners with nine tackles. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

MANHATTAN, Kan. — The jumbotron sitting atop the north wall at Wagner Field reminded the 52,310 fans in attendance Saturday what happened in Kansas City last December. As if anyone really needed a refresher course on how Kansas State dominated Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, there it was, bigger than life.

Audio blaring from every loud speaker in the joint, whipping Wildcat faithful into a frenzied state that set the tone for what figured to be toe-to-toe rematch between the two rivals.

Footage of Darren Sproles running wild against the Sooners. Clips of the K-State defense holding the high-powered Sooners to seven lousy points. And the not-so-subtle message, repeated over and over: "History has a way of repeating itself."

It proved to be wishful thinking.

Jason White, Adrian Peterson, Dan Cody and the rest of the Sooners made sure of that via a 31-21 triumph that saw the visitors rally from deficits on three occasions.

White threw for four touchdowns and Peterson rushed for 100-plus yards for the sixth straight game, while Cody and Company limited the Wildcats to only 77 second-half yards.

The victory improved the second-ranked Sooners to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in Big 12 play. But exactly what kind of grades did the Sooners earn overall in our weekly report card?

RUNNING GAME — (B)
It was a tale of two halves for the OU ground attack, which struggled mightily as K-State continually stacked seven and eight defenders in the box during the first half.

In fact, the Sooners managed just 38 yards on 17 carries in the opening 30 minutes. During that span, Peterson was held to 26 yards and saw his per carry average dip below 2.0.

"That didn't look like the Kansas State team we saw on film," said OU fullback J.D. Runnels. "They scouted us well and prepared well, but we were able to eventually make the right amount of adjustments and get the job done."

OU's cause was helped by the fact quarterback Jason White returned to usual form, throwing for a pair of early scores and keeping the K-State defense honest with several other pinpoint passes.

The offensive line did a solid enough job, but found itself outnumbered on several run calls that netted little or no yardage for the Sooners.

"They had a physical defense," said Peterson, who entered the contest averaging 154.2 yards per game. "But we never let up."

J.D. Runnels epitomized that attitude by producing several bone-crunching lead blocks, which took their toll as the game progressed.

By the end of three quarters, Peterson had 66 yards and OU owned a 24-21 advantage, which the Sooners were able to build upon behind their freshman phenom.

"(Adrian) was great. Even though he got stopped most of the first half, he kept running hard," said White. "Once it finally opened up for him, he was rewarded for it."

With the game still in the balance, Peterson basically carried the load over the final 12 minutes. He carried the ball seven times for 46 yards during a 12-play, 78-yard scoring march that helped put the game away.

Kejuan Jones also added a couple of nice runs late to help finish off the clock.

"I knew we had to make first downs, so I was doing my best to keep my feet moving and it worked out," said Peterson, who finished with 130 yards on a career-high 36 carries.

PASSING GAME — (B+)
This would have been an "A" if not for an errant White pass that was returned for a Wildcat touchdown. But more on that later...

There were plenty of positives when it came to filling the air with footballs Saturday in the Little Apple. First of all, White made a lot of solid decisions in the pocket and when he was pressured he managed to buy extra time and find his targets, for the most part.

White connected with Travis Wilson on a 17-yard scoring pass that tied the game at 7-7 late in the initial quarter and the two hooked up for a second touchdown with 10:27 left in the half. The latter TD — from 14 yards out — helped tie things 14-14.

"The passing game was there all day and we needed to take advantage of it," offered White, who eventually threw for 256 yards on 20 of 31 passing.

Three White completions also helped set up Trey DiCarlo's go-ahead field goal late in the first half.

"Jason threw the ball well. He responded in a great way," said OU coach Bob Stoops. "He made some key plays for us today, especially in the red zone when we really needed them."

White's one bad moment came when he fired a pass that K-State's Brandon Archer intercepted and returned 27 yards for the go-ahead score with 9:52 left in the third. It could have been the defining moment, but White never blinked.

"I made a mistake and it was a costly one. Every offense is going to face adversity and that's the worst kind, a pick for a touchdown," said White. "We knew we had to get a couple of drives and get a score to take back the lead. The offense responded well and that shows a lot of maturity on our team."

On the following series, White marched OU 73 yards in 10 plays, capping it off with a 15-yard TD pass to Mark Clayton. The play put the Sooners on top to stay and White would eventually close out the scoring with another scoring toss to Clayton with 7:06 remaining.

"Jason came back like a champion today," said offensive coordinator Chuck Long. "He was poised and sharp and he played with a lot of confidence.

"Travis is also stepping up in a big way, right now. It's good to see that, and as a result, it opened up Jason to Mark again."

Eight different Sooners caught passes, including five each by Clayton and Wilson.

"With them crowding the box it just gives our wide receivers to get open and make plays. I just happened to be in at the right time when the plays were called and I did what we've been practicing all season," said Wilson, who had five catches for 85 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS — (B-)
Return yards were hard to come by, although Jejuan Rankins had one 20-yard punt return while filling in for the injured Antonio Perkins.

Trey DiCarlo was solid on kickoffs early and then booted a pair out of bounds in the final quarter to stake KSU to good field position. Blake Ferguson averaged over 42 yards per punt, but the O-line allowed a K-State defender to slice through and block a 40-yard DiCarlo field goal attempt.

That could have proven costly.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats were held in check by OU's coverage teams.

RUN DEFENSE — (A+)
Darren Sproles ran wild against the Sooners in K-State's 35-7 victory in the Big 12 title game last season, so it only made since he would be wearing a rather large target on Saturday.

Ironically, the OU defense was so focused in on stopping Sproles, the Cats were able to take advantage by going up top. Quarterback Dylan Meier threw for 153 of his 242 passing yards in the first half when the hosts were trying to set up the upset.

Meier set up K-State's first score — a 1-yard run by Sproles — with a 29-yard pass, and he later hit Yamon Figurs 38-yard TD score.

"I didn't expect them to come out and throw it that much. They had some success with it until we settled down and contained them," said OU defensive back Brodney Pool.

Even with the success through the air, nothing ever opened up for Sproles, who just a few weeks ago was considered one of the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy.

Sproles had two yards after one quarter and went to the halftime locker room sitting on nine carries for 16 yards.

"Our goal was to shut him down, and we knew if we could do that, we'd win the game. In our minds that would make the difference," said co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "I think their plan was to counteract that — to spread us out and not make him a target we could zero in on. But when he did get the ball, we kept him bottled up."

Meier tried to get Sproles out on the corner via several option plays, but that never materialized either.

Oklahoma, behind Lynn McGruder, Larry Birdine and Cody, dominated the trenches and made life tough on any Wildcat ballcarrier.

PASS DEFENSE — (B-)
After a shaky start that saw the secondary riddled for several key completions, the Sooners settled into a defensive groove. OU applied constant pressure on Meier and were able to slow down the one dimensional Cats.

"We thought they were going to run the ball a whole more to start the game. But they attacked us down the middle of the field. They threw us off a little with that," admitted linebacker Rufus Alexander, who led OU with nine tackles.

Several key drops aided OU's cause, but K-State proved to be more than efficient in throwing the ball, as receivers Jermaine Moreira and Figurs combined for 13 catches and 165 total yards.

Meier eventually finished 20 of 38 for 242 yards and the one touchdown, but only 80 yards of that came after the break.

"Once we settle in, we were fine. They didn't really do anything we weren't prepared for — although we were on our heels a little there at the first of the game. We just had to get in our groove and play like we're capable of," said Cody, who finished with two sacks.

Donté Nicholson had a big sack late in the third quarter that helped force a punt. He also had a five tackles, while cornerback Jo-Kay Onyenegecha collected six tackles.

"We prepped so hard all week knowing they were going to come out and give us a good fight. Our Coach (Stoops) said ‘always win the fourth quarter,' and that's what we did," said Onyenegecha. "Defense wins championships, so we were determined to make things happen."

Next up: The Sooners play host to Kansas Jayhawks.


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