Sooners gets Stoops record with late surge

Oklahoma made Bob Stoops the winningest coach in school history Saturday and did so in a fashion befitting of his tenure.

The No. 20 Sooners defeated Kansas State 41-31 to give Stoops his 158th victory as head coach. They got the job done, as road underdogs, with a resilient second half powered by a stout defense and momentum-swinging special teams.

After a first half filled with big plays, Oklahoma broke open the game late thanks to a critical punt return, an interception returned a touchdown and four quarters of dominant run defense.

Stoops was predictably unemotional about surpassing Barry Switzer in the school’s all-time record book, at least in his postgame interview.

“You know, truthfully, it’s not what everyone wants to hear,” Stoops said. “It’s 9-2 on the season. Just got one more to go in the regular season. That’s all I’ve been thinking about. Somewhere down the line, I’ll reflect back on it.”

Quentin Hayes sealed the victory with an interception with 1:59 left, but the Sooners locked this one up early in the fourth quarter thanks to some opportunistic football.

After pinning the Kansas State offense back at its own 3 on a Jed Barnett punt, Oklahoma’s defense got a three-and-out and forced Mark Krause to punt from the back of his end zone.

The high kick he booted was plucked by Jalen Saunders at the 33. Three KSU defenders overran the play and were behind him. Only one – Krause – stood in his path to the end zone. Saunders returned the kick down the right sideline to the 3, and Brennan Clay punched in a touchdown one play later to go up 34-24.

Three plays later, Zack Sanchez made up for some first-half busts by picking off a Jake Waters pass and taking it back 74 yards, extending the lead to 17 with less than 12 minutes to go.

“It was a major play in the ball game,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. “The interception was a major play in the ballgame. There are major plays, but there are so many things that led up to it."

Many of them were made by Clay, Trevor Knight and a potent run game. The Sooners were without suspended running back Damien Williams but had no trouble pounding the rock thanks to Clay, who produced a career-high 200 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. Knight added 82 yards and a score out of the read option.

“Brennan Clay was sensational,” Stoops said. “I think he came into the game in the top two or three in the conference in yards per carry. He just had a great day running the football. Let us give a lot of credit to our offensive line and Aaron Ripkowski; they did a great job of blocking to help Brennan.”

Kansas State’s running game, on the other hand, was completely stifled: 24 yards on 22 rushes. Daniel Sams was a nonfactor with three rushes for 7 yards. And OU survived a monster performance from Tyler Lockett, who burned the Sooners for a KSU school-record 278 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

“Everything that we got was with big plays,” Synder said. “We didn’t move the ball well on offense in terms of drives.”

The game devolved into a home run derby in the second quarter, with Oklahoma and K-State combining for 38 points and 418 yards. But the Sooners needed fireworks in the other two phases of the game to knock off the streaking Wildcats.

And they’ll need plenty more to knock off Oklahoma State in the regular season finale on Dec. 7. But Stoops has plenty to be optimistic entering an off week, and he has a record he’ll eventually be proud of. His players feted him in the locker room, and he’ll take home one of the most meaningful game balls of his career.

He’s just too focused on finishing 2013 right to celebrate right now.

“We have had a good group here for a good period of time, but I do not have time to look at it, to be honest,” Stoops said. “It is something that I will reflect back on down the road."