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Sooners, Wildcats Meet in Manhattan
October 14, 2004

KANSAS CITY -- Oklahoma and Kansas State were supposed to finish the regular season here, in a Big 12 title game rematch at Arrowhead Stadium.

That game would have had it all: the revenge factor, national title implications and a pair of Heisman contenders in Oklahoma quarterback Jason White -- last year's winner -- and Kansas State running back Darren Sproles.

Barring a second straight spectacular comeback by the Wildcats, that's probably not going to happen. Much of the shine is off the regular-season meeting, too.

Sooner Gameday Central: Kansas State | OU Quotes | Game Notes

Going into Saturday's game in Manhattan, Kan., the second-ranked Sooners (5-0) have lived up to expectations. The Wildcats, who started the season ranked 13th and made it as high as No. 12, haven't.

Kansas State, the defending conference champion and preseason Big 12 North favorite, is 2-3 and coming off its first loss to Kansas in 12 years. Three more losses and the Wildcats could miss the postseason for the first time since 1992.

"We can't focus on the postseason right now," Kansas State quarterback Dylan Meier said. "There's too much to worry about with Oklahoma."

That there is.

White has thrown for 972 yards and nine touchdowns, completing 66 percent of his passes with only three interceptions. Freshman Adrian Peterson has rushed for 771 yards and six scores and is already generating Heisman buzz.

They'll be going against a defense that had to replace seven starters from last year's team -- including the pass-rushing tandem of ends Andrew Shull and Thomas Houchin, who harassed White throughout Kansas State's 35-7 upset victory in last year's conference title game.

The Sooners' defense, meanwhile, ranks second in the Big 12 against the run, giving up 92.4 yards rushing a game.

That's hardly good news for Sproles, who has 684 yards rushing -- including a school-record 292-yard performance last month against Louisiana-Lafayette -- and leads the conference with 1,030 all-purpose yards.

Sproles ran for 235 yards in last year's Big 12 title game. He had a lot of help, though, from a player who isn't around any more.

Quarterback Ell Roberson -- whose school career records include rushing, passing and total touchdowns, as well as total offense -- threw four touchdown passes in the title game.

"There's never been any doubt as to his significance in our offense," coach Bill Snyder said. "He was very influential in our offense, a threat to run the ball and throw it.

"Dylan is going through growing pains," Snyder said. "And he's passing the test of those growing pains, week in and week out. ... I think he's handling it well."

Meier has thrown for 821 yards and seven scores but isn't the option threat Roberson was. That has enabled defenses to key on the 5-foot-7, 180-pound Sproles.

He has only two rushing touchdowns this year, one of those in the season opener against Division I-AA Western Kentucky. And in two Big 12 games, both losses, he has been held under 100 yards on the ground each time.

"His size helps him a lot because he can really hide himself behind his linemen," Oklahoma defensive tackle Lynn McGruder said. "Instead of trying to find him, you just have to disrupt everybody and make him come to you. If we stop Sproles, then we will stop their offense."

Despite Kansas State's slump this season, a victory Saturday still would provide some measure of payback for the Sooners.

"We remember what happened last year and we felt that we had something taken away from us that we thought we deserved," cornerback Eric Bassey said. "The Big 12 championship was taken away from us by a team that we didn't think should have beaten us."

And even though they're 2-3, the Wildcats aren't conceding anything just yet.

"Last year nobody really gave us a chance against Oklahoma, and this year it's the exact same situation," defensive end Scott Edmonds said. "That doesn't bother us. If we start thinking like that, that we don't have a chance, we're already beat."

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