NORMAN, Okla. — It’d be just fine with running back John Hubert if people continued to underestimate Kansas State and believe that this latest run of success under Bill Snyder was a fluke.
It may be too late for that.
The Wildcats (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) vaulted up to No. 7 in The Associated Press’ rankings on Sunday, for their highest position since 2003, following a 24-19 upset at Oklahoma that shook up the conference pecking order with just two games in the books.
The Sooners, who have won seven of the 15 titles in Big 12 history, were the preseason favorites before losing their conference home opener for the first time with Bob Stoops as coach.
In the process, the Wildcats established themselves as one of the front-runners for the championship.
“We are one of those teams that could be in the top-five easily,” said Hubert, who ran for 130 yards and a touchdown Saturday night.
“We kind of actually like to be underdogs. It just kind of gives us the momentum, kind of gives us the confidence to go out and play hard.”
Leading the way is Collin Klein, the hard-to-tackle, piano-playing quarterback who carries a notebook with scripture passages in the breast pocket of his shirt. Klein outplayed NFL prospect Landry Jones of Oklahoma not with dazzling throws but with solid, mistake-free football.
The Wildcats’ Jarell Childs recovered a Jones fumble for a touchdown, but the offense didn’t get into the end zone until the fourth quarter. Klein came through when it mattered the most, though, by converting three third downs in the final period — two with his often-questioned arm and the last one with his legs.
“We know obviously we didn’t come close to a perfect game on offense but ... we did what we needed to do when we needed to do it,” Klein said.
Both teams head into an off week while the six teams yet to play their Big 12 openers will get in on the action: No. 25 Baylor at No. 9 West Virginia, Texas Tech at Iowa State and No. 12 Texas at defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma State.
Texas Christian beat Kansas in the only other league game so far this season.
But now, it’s the Wildcats who are the highest ranked team in the conference and suddenly in the spotlight.
“It’s going to be a challenge that we’re going to face, and we’ll see how we do with that challenge,” said Klein, who had 149 yards passing and 79 rushing against the Sooners. “I think we have a lot of guys, and even myself included, that have been here long enough when things weren’t this way and we know what it feels like and we don’t want to go back.”
Klein said that means continuing to focus on the details at practice that can end up meaning the difference in close games. Eight of the 10 wins in their Cotton Bowl season last year came by seven points or less, and now there’s another big win in that category this season.
“It’s a great step, it’s a great team win,” Klein said, “but we’ve got to just keep moving forward and keep sawing the wood.”
Oklahoma, which just had last week off, gets another seven days to soak in a loss that had Jones pointing the finger at himself and Stoops not saying much to defend him. Jones’ fumble directly led to seven K-State points, and his fourth-quarter interception set up the Wildcats’ go-ahead touchdown.
Jones’ backup, Blake Bell, also fumbled on a second-and-goal play from the 1-yard line in Oklahoma’s short-yardage package.
Those three turnovers overshadowed the defense’s inability to get a fourth-quarter stop or the general offensive inconsistencies in Stoops’ eyes.
“To me, it’s the whole game. ... That’s a lot of points to swing against a good team, or a bad one,” Stoops said.
The loss was Oklahoma’s first against a Top 25 team on Owen Field under Stoops, who had been 14-0 in those kind of games. The Sooners tumbled 10 spots in the AP poll to No. 16.
“We had high expectations,” safety Tony Jefferson said. “Losing isn’t good at all. When you lose at home, it’s even worse.”
It was only Stoops’ fourth loss in 82 home games, and the third against Big 12 competition, and suddenly the Sooners are playing catch-up in the conference title chase.
“Coach (Bill) Snyder says from the very beginning: ‘No self-limitation,’” Klein said. “We’re just going to try to take care of our business to the best of our ability, do everything we can possibly do to get ourselves ready to go battle and when the time comes, we’ve got to be ready to go battle.
“We believe that together, and we get it done.”