MANHATTAN, Kan. – When Oklahoma State receiver Brennan Presley fumbled deep in Kansas State territory in the first quarter, it felt like a missed opportunity and a big drive against the Cowboys.
Instead, it turned out to be the last chance and the only taste of any momentum the ninth-ranked Pokes would experience in an inexplicable 48-0 rout at the hands of the No. 22 Wildcats on Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
OSU never moved the ball inside the Kansas State 30-yard line again on a day that became nothing but a purple haze.
The Cowboys entered the game with a chance to establish themselves as serious Big 12 Championship Game contenders, but left in a crumpled ball of disappointment.
Kansas State dominated both lines of scrimmage, backup quarterback Will Howard regularly found open receivers, and the Cowboys shot themselves in the foot in response to nearly every good play they found a way to make.
Plus, starting quarterback Spencer Sanders left the field in the fourth quarter, went straight to the medical tent, then the locker room, leaving his injury up in the air for the next week as the Cowboys try to bounce back from the worst loss of the Mike Gundy era.
Here are four more takeaways from Saturday’s demoralizing defeat:
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A drop and a swish
OSU’s offense seemed to find some rhythm on the first few possessions, only to have those drives derailed by receiver mistakes.
After falling behind 7-0, OSU moved into Kansas State territory facing a third-and-8 when Spencer Sanders zipped a perfect pass over the middle. But it slipped through freshman Stephon Johnson Jr.’s hands. and the Cowboys turned the ball over on fourth down with an incompletion on the ensuing play.
Later in the quarter, with OSU trailing 14-0, the Cowboy defense set up an offense with good field position at the K-State 47.
Sanders found Presley, who eluded tacklers and moved behind the K-State 20-yard line before the ball came loose and was recovered by the Wildcats.
OSU never advanced to the K-State 30 the rest of the game.
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Two is released
Oklahoma State entered the game after back-to-back tackles trying to stop the run, and K-State running back Deuce Vaughn made a quick third down.
The 5-foot-6, 176-pound junior finished with 158 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, but did most of his damage in the first half. He had 121 yards on 14 carries by halftime.
His biggest drive came on the Wildcats’ second possession, when he went 62 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead on a second-and-10 handoff.
For the game, K-State rushed for 199 yards on 37 carries, an average of 5.4 yards per carry.
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Backup QB Will Howard dices the defense
Pregame news that Kansas State starting quarterback Adrian Martinez was out — his injury left him a midgame decision — seemed like good news for Oklahoma State.
But backup Will Howard quickly turned the script. He hit receiver Kade Warner, son of NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, with a 38-yard touchdown on fourth-and-10 for the Wildcats’ first points.
And Howard went on to hold the Cowboy defense to 296 yards on 21-of-37 passing for four touchdowns that tied the school record.
Malik Knowles led the Wildcats with eight receptions for 113 yards.
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Cowboys hampered by injuries
OSU has struggled to run the ball in recent weeks, and that has continued with the injury absences of starting cornerback Dominic Richardson and right guard Hunter Woodard, who has been the Cowboys’ most reliable blocker all season.
Starting center Preston Wilson returned after missing the previous two games with a lower leg injury, but left the game in the third quarter and was replaced by Eli Russ. Jason Brooks Jr. started in place of Woodard.
The Cowboys went back with the trio of Jaden Nixon, Deondre Jackson and Ollie Gordon, but had little success on the ground. According to OSU radio’s Dave Hunziker, Gordon didn’t practice much during the week as he dealt with the illness.
Receivers Braydon Johnson and Jaden Bray were also out.
On defense, safety Thomas Harper returned after missing last week’s game and Jason Taylor II played the week after injuring his knee against Texas. But Taylor was in and out of the lineup, sitting out virtually the entire second half.
Quarterback Spencer Sanders went to the injury tent after being ejected early in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Gunnar Gundy.
Punters Tom Hutton also had to be helped off the field at one point in fourth place.
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OSU at Kansas
KICK OFF: 2:30 p.m. Saturday at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas (FS1)
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This article originally appeared on The Oklahoman: Oklahoma State Football shut down by Will Howard, Kansas State Wildcats