No. 13 Oklahoma State’s Big 12 championship hopes were already put on life support Saturday, thanks to No. 12 TCU’s 27-3 win at Texas Tech, coupled with the knowledge the Frogs close the regular season at home against Baylor on Friday, and No. 4 Oklahoma’s oncoming win at Kansas. But the Cowboys went ahead and eliminated themselves by falling in a 42-13 hole for which they could not climb out, dropping a 45-40 game to Kansas State in Stillwater.
Kansas State opened the game by moving 71 yards in 10 plays — every one of them runs, most of them by second-time starting quarterback Skylar Thompson, who traversed the final 40 yards himself, including a 5-yard score.
After a pair of punts, Oklahoma State tied the game on a 2-play, 70-yard drive: a 32-yard run by Justice Hill and a 38-yard strike from Mason Rudolph to James Washington (eight catches for 159 yards).
Matt Ammendola gave Oklahoma State the lead with a 32-yard field goal, but Thompson shoved Kansas State right back in front with a 47-yard play-action bomb to Byron Pringle, putting Kansas State up 14-10 with 13:32 left in the first half. Oklahoma State threatened to re-claim the lead, but the Cowboys could not convert a 1st-and-goal at the K-State 7-yard line, forcing a 27-yard Ammendola field goal.
Kansas State immediately capitalized on the opportunity to seize control of the game when Pringle struck again, this time taking the ensuing kickoff 89 yards back for a touchdown.
A bad sequence for Oklahoma State became even worse when Rudolph’s deep pass to Washington was overthrown and intercepted by Duke Shelley at the K-State 18. The Cowboys defense forced a three-and-out, but the next Oklahoma State drive ended in another Rudolph overthrow and another interception, which Kendall Adams grabbed at the K-State 19 and returned 19 yards to the 38.
Kansas State capitalized on the mistake, moving 62 yards in five plays, the last 39 on an Alex Barnes run down the right sideline to put the Wildcats up 28-13 with 1:30 left in the first half.
The downpour continued to open the second half. Thompson hit Pringle on another bomb, this time 46 yards, on the Wildcats’ first touch of the second half, and that connection hooked up again to push the lead to 42-13 midway through the third quarter — this time from 60 yards out. Pringle finished the day with four catches for a career-best 166 yards and three touchdowns.
Pringle’s third touchdown marked the third straight game and the fourth overall Oklahoma State has allowed 42 points or more.
Oklahoma State forced its way back into the game through a 21-3 run, scoring on a 2-yard run by Hill, an 8-yard pass from Rudolph (32-of-53 for 425 yards with four total touchdowns and two interceptions) to Washington and a 2-yard Rudolph keeper with 4:55 to play.
Oklahoma State attempted an onside kick after the final touchdown, but it was recovered by — who else? — Pringle.
After using its second timeout, Oklahoma State’s defense hit a trifecta: it managed to sack Thompson, force a fumble in which it recovered, and knock Thompson out of the game with what appeared to be a right leg injury. He finished the game hitting 10-of-13 passes for 204 yards with three touchdowns while rushing 17 times for a game-high 93 yards and a touchdown. Barnes added 85 yards on 21 carries, and as a team Kansa State out-rushed Oklahoma State 219-85.
The Cowboys zipped down the field to register Rudolph’s fourth touchdown of the game, a 14-yard bullet to Dillon Stoner to pull the Pokes within 45-40 with 4:02 remaining. Rudolph’s 2-point pass was intercepted.
Needing a first down to win the game, Kansas State ran three straight direct snaps to Barnes, who managed only two yards. Oklahoma State got the ball back at its own 46 with 2:12 remaining, knowing a touchdown would win the game. Instead, they could not gain a yard. Rudolph fired incomplete on four consecutive passes, thereby dooming the Cowboys’ comeback efforts and sending Kansas State (6-5, 4-4 Big 12) into their first bowl game since 2015.
Oklahoma State (8-3, 5-3 Big 12) will finish its season and Rudolph’s record-breaking career against Kansas next Saturday in Stillwater, knowing the Pokes are playing solely to hold on to their top-25 ranking and bowl positioning, but not much more.