- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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NORMAN, Okla. -- With a throng of Kansas State fans celebrating in the stands just yards away, dejection and disappointment filled the Oklahoma Sooners as they slowly walked off the Owen Field turf after the No. 15-ranked WIldcats’ 24-19 win over OU on Saturday night.
And when the No. 6-ranked Sooners look back on their first home loss against a ranked team under head coach Bob Stoops, they can look closely at their inability to get key defensive stops when they needed them.
“We kind of broke down a little bit in the fourth quarter,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “We fought ourselves through the game, but we just got outexecuted in the fourth quarter and that was really the game.”
The Wildcats were 3 of 3 on third down in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of the Sooners defense in various ways to complete critical conversions.
“On third downs, nobody could make plays on the defensive side of the ball,” defensive end David King said. “You’re at a big time place like OU, coaches recruit you with the expectation that you’re going to make those plays. And tonight no one was able to make those plays when we needed them.”
The first third down conversion could have been the most deflating. With the Sooners trailing 17-13 early in the fourth quarter, KSU quarterback Collin Klein connected with receiver Tramaine Thompson for a 26-yard connection on third-and-12. The Wildcats ran a simple bubble screen, but the Sooners defensive backfield busted the coverage.
“Somebody didn’t communicate a read right,” Mike Stoops said. “We turned a guy lose in one of the most critical situations.”
The Wildcats went on to score and push their lead to 24-13 with 7:23 left in the game.
“There were too many occasions we get them in third down, some of the third-and-long stops,” Bob Stoops said. “That’s where we weren’t as good as we needed to be.”
After OU made it a one-possession game with a 10-yard Sterling Shepard touchdown catch, both teams knew the game would be decided on the following drive. Whoever made the plays would win, whoever didn’t would fall behind in the race to become the Big 12 champion in 2012.
The Sooners came out strong, forcing a 3rd-and-11 at the KSU 24-yard line. But Klein found Thompson again, this time on a crossing route as the Wildcat receiver was matched up with OU linebacker Tom Wort. His 12-yard reception gave the Wildcats a new set of downs.
Two plays later, the Sooners had forced another third down with KSU facing a 3rd-and-3 at its 43-yard line. For the umpteenth time on the night, KSU ran Klein on a hesitation power run right at OU’s defense. Five yards later, the chains were moving again.
“It was the same plays over and over,” King said. “And we just weren’t able to stop them.”
The Sooners' fourth-quarter struggles to stop the Wildcats on third down was the overriding theme of the night as a whole. KSU was 7 of 14 on third down as the Wildcats confused and baffled the Sooners, who used multiple timeouts before third down conversion attempts during the loss.
KSU often took the field with a four- or five-wide set on third down, forcing the Sooners to match up with defensive backs. When OU did, the Wildcats had the option to run the physical Klein with one linebacker on the field. If OU did not, the Wildcats tried to exploit them through the air. KSU’s offensive game plan on third down caused major problems for the Sooners and ultimately lead to their upset win in Norman.
“We adjusted some things but they kind of worked us on third down,” Mike Stoops said. “They kept drives going, that was probably the most disappointing part of it all, that we didn’t have a better game plan against their empty sets and that was my fault.”
1dJake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon