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Opportunistic Performance Puts Kansas State in Big 12 Contention

Bill Snyder

Bill Snyder

On its face, perhaps Kansas State’s 31-30 win at Oklahoma doesn’t put the Wildcats in anyone’s playoff picks next week.

The Wildcats remain a one-loss squad, and its win over the Sooners included a certain amount of good fortune.

Kansas State won in part because Sooners kicker Michael Hunnicut looked nothing like an All-America-type kicker from short range. A missed 19-yard field goal and a blocked extra point were major gifts in a game decided by one point.

At the same time, though, Kansas State can’t be ignored in the Big 12 or perhaps the playoff race after a win in Norman only weeks after a close call with Auburn.

Give Kansas State an inch, and the Wildcats will swipe a victory.

The Wildcats were outgained by 148 yards, but Bill Snyder quickly dismissed such numbers.

“Those numbers are not significant,” Snyder told the media. “Turnovers, those are significant. In all reality, that is the difference in the ball game. ... The right numbers can tell you something, but not yardage.”

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This was a vintage effort by a Snyder team, reminiscent of the 2012 team that won the Big 12 title and flirted with the BCS title game.

Yardage differential doesn’t matter. A perceived edge in talent doesn’t matter.

Leaving the door just slightly ajar against Kansas State, though, is treacherous.

Auburn tried earlier in the year. The Tigers won a sloppy 20-14 game on Sept. 18. Auburn averaged only 2.8 yards per carry and had a handful of dropped passes that day, but Kansas State had more miscues with three turnovers to cost the Wildcats a landmark win.

On Saturday, Kansas State played the kind of opportunistic game that has been the foundation of Snyder’s best teams. The Wildcats didn’t turn the ball over and committed only two penalties for 20 yards.

Quarterback Jake Waters went 15-of-23 for 225 yards with two touchdowns, and his 51-yard run was the longest of the game. Meanwhile, Oklahoma threw an interception on an ill-advised out route near its own end zone for a pick six. A wide receiver pass in the third quarter ended a drive with an interception in the end zone.

As for the road ahead, Kansas State now has a signature win this season. Even if it came against an Oklahoma team that already lost to TCU, the Wildcats showed they have the ability to contend in the Big 12.

If they can win in Norman, Kansas State can win at TCU, West Virginia and Baylor. Even with one loss, Kansas State should will have plenty of opportunities to continue a climb into the playoff race.