Wildcats tune up for Sooners with rout of Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan.—Kansas State's Bill Snyder preaches to his players to treat every game the same, no matter the opponent, the place or the circumstance.
He's going to have a tough time making the message stick this week.
Collin Klein threw for a career-high 195 yards and accounted for five touchdowns, freshman Tyler Lockett returned a kickoff for a score and caught a touchdown pass, and No. 12 Kansas State tuned up for a big showdown against Oklahoma with a 59-21 pasting of Kansas on Saturday.
The Wildcats (7-0, 4-0) are riding their best start since 1999, when they won their first nine games. They'll host the third-ranked Sooners next Saturday in a matchup that should go a long way toward deciding the Big 12 champion now that there's no conference title game.
"For us, it's all about us," Snyder said. "It's all about playing as well as we possibly can."
Snyder doesn't believe that's happened yet. Maybe it never will.
But the Wildcats were plenty good enough to help their 72-year-old coach improve to 16-4 against the Jayhawks on Saturday. That includes a 59-7 blowout last year and a stretch of 11 straight wins in the 1990s and early 2000s, when Snyder annually fielded one of the best teams in college football.
The Wildcats are headed that direction again.
Behind the solid decision-making of Klein, a vastly improved defense and Snyder's Yoda-like guidance, Kansas State has already matched its win total from all of last season.
Klein finished with 92 yards and four TDs rushing on Saturday, and Lockett -- the son of former K-State great Kevin Lockett and the nephew of Aaron Lockett -- had five catches for 110 yards. Running back John Hubert added 92 yards and another score.
"It was another step," Klein said, taking a cue from his coach by downplaying one of the best starts in school history. "We have a lot of work on Monday."
That's certainly true with Oklahoma looming.
The Jayhawks, meanwhile, caused more trouble for themselves than they did their rival.
Kansas was penalized nine times for 105 yards, and two fumbles early in the second half resulted in touchdowns that effectively put away the game.
"It's tough. All of our losses are tough to take," said coach Turner Gill, who's on the hot seat in only his second season. "We're competitive. We plan on going out and playing well. Unfortunately, things didn't work out, particularly in the second half."
Jordan Webb threw for 169 yards and a touchdown for Kansas (2-5, 0-4), which has dropped five straight, including a 47-17 defeat to the Sooners last week.
"This game would have been a big confidence-booster for our team," said Kansas safety Bradley McDougald. "I saw a lot of guys work hard this week and it didn't show up, and it hurts."
Kansas State jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter, at which point the Jayhawks had more penalty yards (41) than net offense (23). They finally mounted a scoring drive that James Sims capped with a short touchdown run, but Klein answered with his third TD run for a 28-7 lead.
The Jayhawks looked as though they'd have some momentum at halftime when they drove 76 yards in less than 2 minutes, and Webb hit D.J. Beshears from 13 yards out for a score. But the Wildcats snatched the momentum back when Klein hit Lockett for 48 yards down the middle of the field to set up a field goal with no time left and a 31-14 lead at the break.
That was the start of a disastrous stretch for Kansas.
Lockett took the opening kickoff of the second half 97 yards for a score, his second kick return TD in as many weeks. The Jayhawks were whistled for three separate penalties on the ensuing kickoff, backing them up to their 8, and Tony Pierson promptly fumbled on the first play from scrimmage.
Klein scored two players later for a 45-14 lead.
On the Jayhawks' next drive, Webb fumbled near midfield, and it took the Wildcats only six more plays before Klein hit Lockett for a 19-yard touchdown pass and a 52-14 lead.
The Wildcats began resting starters after that, guarding against injury before next weekend's showdown against Oklahoma, and the backups swapped fourth-quarter scores inside a stadium that was nearly empty save for several thousand fans wearing purple.
"It was a good feeling come in here," said Kansas State defensive end Jordan Voelker. "It's also a big game setting us up for next week."