Oklahoma hits the road Saturday for their first true road game since 2019.
Kansas State’s Bill Snyder Family Stadium has no limits on fan capacity, and the Wildcats are determined to beat the Sooners for the third consecutive year.
The Sooners are the better team on paper, and come into the game as a 10-point favorite. But they lost the last time they traveled to Manhattan, and they’re sure to face a hostile home crowd.
Here’s a look at four keys to a Sooners’ victory over Kansas State:
1. Find Eric Gray space to operate
One of the Sooners’ best plays against West Virginia came in the first quarter.
Facing fourth-and-4, OU quarterback Spencer Rattler found Gray on a wheel route towards the left sideline. Gray caught the pass near the line of scrimmage before out-maneuvering two defenders on his way to a 38-yard gain.
It was the team’s longest play from scrimmage and helped set up the Sooners’ lone touchdown.
The play was another glimpse into Gray’s speed and quickness with the ball, and the ability to make plays on the perimeter.
The team struggled to run the ball between the tackles against West Virginia, and they may struggle again to find a room against a Kansas State team that’s limiting opposing offenses to just 75 rushing yards per game.
Gray’s skills as a pass catcher and playmaker could be a way for the Sooners to find a rhythm offensively.
2. Utilize Marvin Mims
After a five-catch, 117-yard performance in the season opener, it’s been tough sledding for last season’s leading receiver.
In the three games since Tulane, Mims has totaled five catches for 76 yards.
He’s currently fourth on the team in receptions, behind Mike Woods, Mario Williams and Jadon Haselwood, who each have 17.
Mims has played more from the slot-receiver position this season, and the opportunities just haven’t been there as often for the sophomore.
“He’s a guy that we certainly want to continue to find ways to get the ball in his hands,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said Tuesday. “[In] a lot of ways, our offensive slot gives you some unique opportunities to do that. We’ve had a lot of things dialed up for him that [we just haven’t] quite hit on…”
Both of Mims’ catches against West Virginia came in the second half, including a 13-yard reception that earned the Sooners a first down on their game-winning drive, and finding other ways to get Mims involved could boost the team’s passing attack.
3. Force Kansas State to make plays through the air
The Wildcats’ passing game is like a fire extinguisher — only use in case of emergency.
Kansas State has thrown the ball 79 times this season, compared to 154 rushing attempts. Only two of their 13 touchdowns this season have come in the passing game.
They rank 118th in the country in passing yards per game (160.8) and 108th in completion percentage (54). Part of that can be attributed to a knee injury for quarterback Skylar Thompson, who missed the last two weeks and is unlikely to play against the Sooners.
Kansas State wants to run the ball, and the Sooners are one of the best units in the country at defending the run. The Sooners are surrendering the ninth fewest rushing yards per game.
If the Sooners can limit Kansas State’s running game like they did against West Virginia, the Wildcats could struggle to score points.
4. Stop the second-quarter droughts
The last two games have started the same way for the Sooners.
The offense started the Nebraska game with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a touchdown. Against West Virginia, the Sooners also scored on their first possession with a seven-play, 67-yard drive.
But the offense struggled to maintain that momentum, going scoreless in the second quarter of both games.
“We open halves so well and played some of our best ball there,” Riley said after Saturday’s game. “We’ve gotta be able to maintain it.”
If Kansas State keeps it close, the Sooners will need to find a way to gain momentum heading into halftime.