When September ended, Oklahoma woke up.
After two weeks of back-to-basics practices and soul-searching, the Sooners put together their most dominant performance of the season in routing Kansas State 43-21 at Owen Field.
“I thought we made good progress from last week to this week,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “I thought we grew as a team.”
OU improved to 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the Big 12 Conference. The Wildcats fell to 3-1 and 0-1.
The Sooners rushed for 232 yards, using a quarterback Rhett Bomar’s feet and a tailback-by-committee approach for the most of the final three quarters.
Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 51 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, injured his right ankle with 10:21 left in the second quarter and did not return.
Even without their workhorse, the Sooners had no problem churning up yards. Bomar was the game’s leading rusher with 67 yards, most coming on a 42-yard third-quarter run. Kejuan Jones added 48 yards and Donta Hickson and Jacob Gutierrez combined for 62.
It was a breakout performance from the much-maligned Sooner offense. For the first time this season, the unit did not commit a turnover.
“The little mistakes had been the ones that had been killing us,” Bomar said. “We had two weeks to correct that and we did.”
Instead, it was the Wildcats who imploded. They only turned the ball over once, but added a gimme safety and 11 penalties for 85 yards.
“We got our fannies blackened,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. “We’ve just been doing all the things that can hurt us. The penalties. Kicking game was strained, at best. And then we were non-functional on offense.”
OU’s defense had something to do with that.
The Wildcats entered the game ranked 12th nationally in rushing, having piled up at least 200 yards in their first three games.
They were held to 22 Saturday. Running back Thomas Clayton entered the game averaging 164.5 yards a game. He was held to 11 on 12 carries.
The Sooners also recorded a season-high six sacks.
“When you get pressure on the quarterback and play in the backfield you’re going to win ball games,” defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek said. “We did that well today.”
The Sooners never trailed and grabbed the lead on Peterson’s 22-yard scamper with 5:20 left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats tossed in two more points a minute later.
Kansas State lined up to punt from their own 12 with 4:31 left in the first quarter. The only problem was punter Tim Reyer wasn’t among the group. Long snapper Jeff Mortimer snapped the ball anyway, right through the back of the end zone.
Garrett Hartley added a 29-yard field goal early in the second quarter and Jones crashed in from 3 yards out to put the Sooners up 19-0 at halftime.
Early in the second quarter Sooner safety setup Reggie Smith picked off Webb and returned it to the Kansas State 21.
In another bye-week shakeup, the Sooner secondary ditched their early-season tendency to play off wide receivers and played a lot of tight man-to-man coverage.
“We had two weeks to prepare and we knew a lot of what they were going to do,” Smith said. “We were on point and knew what to do.”
After Donta Hickson’s 22-yard run, Bomar did the rest, finding the end zone from 8 yards out and putting the Sooners up 26-0.
Kansas State finally answered when Jordy Nelson evaded Smith on an out-route and raced 73 yards down the west boundary for a touchdown.
The Sooners answered with Jones crashing into the endzone from 2 yards out with 6:18 left in the third quarter.
Webb, who threw for 177 yards, found Rashaad Norwood for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 6:18 left in the third quarter. Ayo Saba capped the Wildcats’ scoring with a 1-yard plunge with 7:03 left.
By then, the outcome had already been decided.
Bomar found tight end Joe Jon Finley in the corner of the end zone for his touchdown early in the fourth quarter to put the Sooners up 40-15. It was Bomar’s and the Sooners’ first touchdown pass of the season. Hartley added a 40-yard field goal with 7:55 left to cap the Sooners’ output.
“One thing we haven’t been doing is having fun,” offensive tackle Davin Joseph said. “This game right here, we had fun. We came off the ball and we were playing aggressive and playing Oklahoma football.”
With an impressive victory in tow, OU can now turn its attention toward Texas and the annual showdown at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
“This team, when it comes to that next game, we have that swagger,” Bomar said. “I don’t think we’ve lost that.”
Saturday provided a glimpse he could be right.
When September ended, Oklahoma woke up.