Five key takeaways from Kansas State’s impressive victory over the Oklahoma Sooners

Nate Billings/AP

The Oklahoma football team will benefit from at least one unexpected perk when it leaves the Big 12 for the SEC.

It will no longer have to play Kansas State every season.

The Wildcats were once again a thorn in the Sooners’ side on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. K-State defeated Oklahoma 41-34 for a road upset that few of the 84,376 in attendance saw coming.

K-State (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) knocked off No. 6 Oklahoma (3-1, 0-1) thanks to some stellar play from quarterback Adrian Martinez. The Nebraska transfer played by far his finest game in a purple uniform, throwing for 234 yards and a touchdown in addition to rushing for 148 yards and four touchdowns.

His biggest play of the game came in the fourth quarter when he took off for a gain of 55 yards with K-State facing a third-and-long as the Wildcats tried to protect a touchdown lead. He scored on a QB keeper a few moments later to clinch the game.

That was a familiar sight for OU fans.

K-State has owned Oklahoma since Chris Klieman began coaching the Wildcats in 2019. They have gone 3-1 against the mighty Sooners under his watchful eye. No other Big 12 team has beaten them more than once during that time.

Fans can begin thinking positively again about the season. This was an ideal way to bounce back from last week’s home defeat against Tulane.

Here are some key takeaways from the action:

This is what good Adrian Martinez looks like

That’s more like it.

K-State football fans have been waiting to see the Nebraska transfer play with the aggressive style that he brought to the field for every game with his old school, and he finally delivered.

After three straight underwhelming games, Martinez looked like a new quarterback against the Sooners on his way to a performance that fans will be talking about for quite a while.

Not only did he throw for 234 yards and a touchdown, he also rushed for 148 yards and four touchdowns. Every time K-State needed him to make a big play, he came up with one.

“It’s hard for me to just realize this moment,” Martinez said. “Even at the end of the game, when they were driving, I was screaming ‘finish, we gotta finish, it’s not over till there’s zeros on the clock,’ even though the game was probably over. It’s a tremendous feeling. I have a lot to be thankful for.”

He didn’t waste any time “cutting it loose,” to borrow a phrase from Klieman.

Martinez led the Wildcats to touchdowns on each of their first two drives with a mixture of precise passes and hard runs. He took off for a 12-yard scramble on third-and-long, he found the end zone on a QB keeper, he connected with Malik Knowles for a score. He played with confidence and swagger for the first time in a purple uniform.

Unlike previous games, he also did more than simply throw short passes. He hooked up with Ben Sinnott for a 27-yard gain early and continually looked downfield when he was on the move.

He kept the good times going in the second half by rushing for two more touchdowns and moving the chains with a number of impressive plays. Then he wowed the crowd with his late 55-yard run.

It was appropriate that he took a bow following his final touchdown. He put on a show.

“He’s my quarterback,” K-State running back Deuce Vaughn said, “and he showed everyone exactly why he’s my quarterback.”

Any talk of K-State pivoting to Will Howard or Jake Rubley at quarterback can stop.

K-State fans can dream a little bit now

At least one sportsbook dropped Kansas State’s over/under win total all the way down to 5 1/2 earlier this week following a surprising loss to Tulane.

With Martinez in a slump and the schedule getting tougher, only the most devoted K-State supporters were projecting the Wildcats to contend for a Big 12 championship.

But that no longer feels like an impossibility.

A road game against Oklahoma looked like the most difficult game on the schedule, and K-State won it.

By no means does this victory guarantee success. Klieman has twice beaten Oklahoma before and he has never won more than eight games in a season at K-State. But the Wildcats can build even more positive momentum at the start of conference play if they defeat Texas Tech at home next week.

Malik Knowles had a good all-around game

The senior K-State receiver contributed in all phases.

On offense, he caught his first touchdown of the season when he hauled in a 6-yard catch from Martinez in the first quarter and went on to catch four passes for 52 yards.

On defense (well, technically also offense) he broke up what looked like a sure interception for Oklahoma when he torpedoed his body into an OU defensive back near the sideline.

On special teams, he returned a kickoff our across midfield to spark a touchdown drive for the Wildcats.

Talk about a good all-around game.

Shaky secondary

The Wildcats forced the Sooners to punt a handful of times and came up with an important stop on fourth down in the second half.

It’s fair to say K-State had its moments on defense.

But OU quarterback Dillon Gabriel also burned the K-State secondary for some explosive plays. He hit Theo Wease for a 56-yard touchdown strike and Marvin Mims for a 50-yard score in the first half on his way to throwing for 330 yards and four touchdowns.

That is at least somewhat concerning given how well Big 12 offenses can throw the ball.

Unexpected K-State star on offense

Ben Sinnott isn’t technically a receiver, but he was the most reliable pass-catcher on K-State’s roster Saturday night.

Martinez connected with Sinnott, a sophomore tight end, four times for 80 yards.

Those turned out to be some valuable contributions on a night when the Wildcats scored 41 points.

“He was awesome today,” Klieman said. “He made some big-time catches. I am excited for him, and that Adrian went to him. He is a big kid and he had some big-time plays.”