The 22nd-ranked Kansas State Wildcats served notice that they are still very much in the Big 12 title hunt with a first-half onslaught in a 48-0 victory over 9th-ranked Oklahoma State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Will Howard threw for four touchdowns in the first 30 minutes alone – two of them to Kade Warner – and Deuce Vaughn found the end zone on the ground and through the air as the Wildcats sprinted to a 35-0 halftime lead.
“Wow,” said Wildcats head coach Chris Klieman. “What a performance. We were focused. We were excited to be at home. We played as well as we could play.”
A surprise starter after Adrian Martinez appeared to lead the first team offense through pre-game warmups, Howard wasted no time getting the Wildcats’ offense rolling, completing four of six passes for 69 yards on the opening drive and connecting with Warner for 38 yards on a 4th-and-10 to open the scoring.
“Adrian didn’t feel like he was 100% confident in what he could do,” Klieman said in discussing the quarterback situation after the game. “Everybody was at peace with the decision (to start Howard). Can’t be more proud of Will Howard, how he came out and electrified the crowd and electrified our team.”
After Oklahoma State failed to convert on a fourth-down in K-State territory on their first drive, they were made to pay immediately following by Vaughn, who sprinted 62 yards for a score to make it 14-0.
Howard added three more touchdown passes in the second quarter, finding Phillip Brooks for 31 yards, hooking up with Warner again on a 41-yard screen pass, and finally, with seven seconds left in the half, zipping a dart to Vaughn for a one-yard score.
The Wildcat defense did their part to aid the first-half domination, holding the Cowboys to 112 yards and forcing a pair of turnovers. Austin Moore forced a fumble that Brendan Mott recovered, and Julius Brents intercepted a pass.
Tyler Zentner kicked a pair of second-half field goals, and DJ Giddens provided the game’s final score with a nine-yard run late in the fourth quarter. Krew Jackson added an interception of Oklahoma State backup quarterback Gunnar Gundy on the Cowboys’ final drive of the game to preserve the shutout, their first in program history over a team ranked in the AP Top 25 poll.
The Wildcats held Oklahoma State to 217 total yards on the day, while gaining 495 yards of their own. Howard threw for 296 yards on 21-for-37 passing, with Malik Knowles leading the receiving corps with 113 yards on eight catches. Vaughn rushed for 158 yards on 22 carries.
“This is as good a win, collectively, as I’ve ever been a part of,” Klieman said.
K-State, now 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12, controls their own destiny for a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game by taking sole possession of second place with the win. They are back at home next Saturday, when they host Texas. The game will kick off at 6 p.m. and be broadcast on FOX unless there is a World Series game, in which case it will air on FS1.