With Oklahoma’s 48-10 victory over Iowa State Saturday, head coach Bob Stoops tied Barry Switzer for the most wins in program history with 157. Stoops now looks to surpass Switzer for the record against his mentor, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder.
Stoops, who owns a 7-2 head-to-head record as head coach against Snyder, played under Hayden Fry at Iowa (1979-82) when Snyder served on Fry’s staff. Snyder then hired Stoops to serve on his staff at K-State in 1989. Under Stoops, OU is 4-0 playing in Manhattan, Kan.
Despite having the opportunity to reach the milestone, Stoops downplayed the significance of possibly breaking the record against one of his mentors.
“Winning there would be great for our season and this season for all of those reasons,” Stoops said. “Outside of that, Coach Snyder and I aren’t going to play. We have got teams and staff and a bunch of people working with us and it will be one team against the other.”
While OU’s head coach was reluctant to get sentimental about the chance to become the winningest coach in Sooners’ history against Snyder, his younger brother acknowledged the debt of gratitude the Stoops brothers owe to K-State’s longtime leader.
“He has kind of started us all in coaching,” Mike Stoops said. “Coach Snyder’s given us a great opportunity. We owe a great deal to him professionally. He taught us a lot of important elements of coaching and the details of it all. He’s been a mentor in a lot of ways to us.”
Milestone Rushing Game For Sooners
Oklahoma’s rushing game put on quite the show Saturday against Iowa State as it posted the best performance in the Stoops era.
In the contest, the Sooners accumulated 405 yards on 44 rushing attempts (9.2 yards per attempt) and scored four touchdowns on the ground. OU’s previous best ground game of the Stoops era was at Tulsa on Aug. 30, 2002, when the Sooners recorded 378 rushing yards.
OU also had two 100-yard rushers in the game in running back Damien Williams (128 yards) and quarterback Trevor Knight (123 yards) for the first time since the 2008 Big 12 Championship Game vs. Missouri. Brennan Clay also added 86 yards for the Sooners.
The Sooners are now 61-1 (.984) under Stoops (7-0 in 2013) when rushing for 200 or more yards, including 33 straight wins. But putting up gaudy ground numbers against the Wildcats will be much more difficult. Kansas State has held its last six opponents to fewer than 125 net rushing yards.
Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder said the Sooners have “a stable of backs” who are upperclassmen and experienced at the running back position. Snyder added that other OU personnel are also key in the success of the running game, including a veteran nucleus of offensive linemen.
“They run the ball extremely well when they get it in their hands,” he said. “It’s not anything different, it’s a matter of emphasis and how much emphasis they have on the run game. At Iowa State they rushed from well over 360 yards in the second half but only 66 in the first half. What took place more than anything was that they had some big plays in the running game. Some long distance run plays with the quarterback and the running backs and again that’s a very good Iowa State defensive football team. They have experienced offensive lineman, all returning starters and upper classmen. They just play to their strengths and that’s what they do extremely well so that’s what they do.”
One member of that senior stable is Clay, a player who knows the importance of controlling the ball and the clock against K-State.
“I think it is going to be extremely important to run the ball, control the clock and run it out to get first downs,” he said. “It is going to change the speed of the game. Kansas State does a great job of running the ball, as well, so it's going to a battle up front from both sides of the ball.”
While the anchor of Oklahoma’s blocking unit, senior center Gabe Ikard, took satisfaction in the Sooners’ second-half performance against the Cyclones, he knows two complete halves will be necessary on Saturday in Manhattan, Kan.
“I thought we put together a good second half, but we have to continue working,” the offensive captain said. “There are glimpses of how good we can be, which is what you saw in the second half like rushing for 400 yards. We have to be able to produce that every week and we are not going to be satisfied until we are able to do that again. Only having a couple games left, we have to put two Saturdays together like that second half because we are playing two very good teams.”
Defending the Wildcats
On the other side of the ball, OU’s defense will face a challenging rushing attack from Kansas State, which poses some unique challenges with two very different quarterbacks.
“It will be a difficult task,” head coach Bob Stoops said of facing Kansas State on the road. “They have really played well in the past four weeks. They’ve won four straight games. They’re moving the football really well with two different quarterbacks. They really have two different offenses with the quarterbacks in some aspects. They always play fundamentally sound on defense, so again, it will be a big challenge going up there and playing in Manhattan.”
After starting the season with a loss to North Dakota State, the Wildcats have found their stride over the last month. Kansas State is +6 (11 takes/5 gives) in turnover during its four-game winning streak, converting 51.0 percent (26 of 51) of its third downs over that stretch. K-State has also outscored its opponents by an average of 39.5 to 19.0 points per game during that span.
Stoops knows that Bill Snyder has plenty of tricks up his sleeve, and putting defenders in difficult situations with a variety of run-pass options plays is just one element that the Sooners will have to prepare for on Saturday.
“He’ll be 75 percent through a run play and all of a sudden they throw it,” OU’s head coach remarked. “I’ve never seen a quarterback screen before but they’ve even got a quarterback screen where they’ve got all of the lineman pulling out on the weak side where usually you throw it to the back, well now he just uses the back to pin the end and there goes the quarterback running around the screen so he always has a different wrinkle.”
The 21-point point barrier will serve as a benchmark for the Sooners in this contest.
OU has won 31 straight when allowing 21 points or less. And in five Big 12 wins in 2013, Oklahoma has permitted 16.6 points per game. Conversely, K-State is 3-7 in last 10 games when being held to 21 points or less, including four straight losses (0-2 in 2013).
While teams pose different challenges every year, Oklahoma’s veteran defenders know some things don’t change when you play Kansas State.
“They’re a little different but they still have their running back [John Hubert], [Tyler] Lockett and [Tramaine] Thompson who are athletic,” senior safety Gabe Lynn said. “They’re physical and don’t make a lot of mistakes. They lost some early games, but I still think they’re a tough team.”
Jalen Saunders Is Special
On Monday, senior wide receiver Jalen Saunders was named the Big 12 Co-Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts in OU’s win over Iowa State.
With the Cyclones leading 10-3 in the second quarter, Saunders broke off a 91-yard punt return touchdown to even the score at 10-10. The Sooners would not look back, scoring 45 unanswered points to close out an undefeated season at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
The punt return tied as the third-longest in OU history. Saunders currently ranks second in the Big 12 in punt return average (13.5).
“Jalen has had a huge impact,” head coach Bob Stoops said of Saunders’ contribution since transferring from Fresno State. “He has been a great player for us, explosive player, and a very consistent player, too. Every week he performs well and he plays hard and always has that ability to make big plays.”
It is the second Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week honor for Saunders. In last year’s home finale vs. Oklahoma State, he produced an 81-yard punt return touchdown to help spark the Sooners in a 51-48, overtime victory.
In addition to Saunders on special teams, the Sooners have also boasted a Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week (QB Blake Bell – Tulsa) and a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week (S Gabe Lynn – West Virginia).
Saunders shared the honor with Kansas State kicker Jack Cantele who hit a game-winning 41-yard field goal with three seconds remaining to give the Wildcats a 33-31 win over TCU.