Remarkably, Lincoln Riley has yet to beat Chris Klieman at Kansas State.
Suffering back-to-back upset losses in two very different fashions, Riley and the Sooners will get another shot at Klieman’s squad when they visit Manhattan on Oct. 2.
Awaiting Oklahoma will be plenty of familiar faces, as the bulk of the KSU team that engineered a stunning 21-point comeback in Norman last season returns, led by none other than quarterback Skylar Thompson.
Throwing for 334 yards and one touchdown and completing 18-of-25 passes, Thompson again dazzled against OU in 2020. But an injury a week later sidelined the Wildcat signal caller for the remainder of the season.
Reports out of Kansas State’s spring camp indicate that Thompson was ahead of schedule on his rehab, a great sign for a Wildcat offense hoping to find more stability in 2021.
Breakout star running back Deuce Vaughn’s return should help take some pressure off of Thompson.
Oklahoma Sooners 2021 Schedule
- Sept. 4: at Tulane Green Wave
- Sept. 11: vs. Western Carolina Catamounts
- Sept. 28: vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Sept. 25: vs. West Virginia Mountaineers
- Oct. 2: at Kansas State Wildcats
- Oct. 9: vs. Texas Longhorns
- Oct. 16: vs. TCU Horned Frogs
- Oct. 23: at Kansas Jayhawks
- Oct. 30: vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders
- Nov. 13: at Baylor Bears
- Nov. 20: vs. Iowa State Cyclones
- Nov. 27: at Oklahoma State Cowboys
Rushing for 642 yards and seven touchdowns in a shortened 2020 season, Vaughn was the spark that ignited KSU’s unlikely comeback to upend the Sooners.
However, where Vaughn really hurt OU was through the air. Hauling in four passes for 129 yards (77 of which on one play), the stage wasn’t too big for the freshman playmaker.
Vaughn led Kansas State in receiving yards as a whole last year, finishing the year with 434 yards and two touchdowns on 25 receptions, but Klieman will need another playmaker to step up in the passing game.
All eyes are on Malik Knowles, who the Wildcats hope can be a difference maker if he can stay healthy over the course of an entire season. The Mansfield, TX, product finished last year with 13 catches for 204 yards and three scores.
The Wildcats added via the transfer portal too, bringing in tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe, formerly of USC and Illinois, in hopes of adding another weapon to the fold. The senior has 448 career receiving yards and four touchdowns across his two seasons in Los Angeles and a year in uniform for the Fighting Illini.
On the defensive side of the ball, Kansas State will have to account for the loss of standout pass rusher Wyatt Hubert. The two-time All-Big 12 selection was taken in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Stepping up in his place will be Khalid Duke and Bronson Massie. A year ago, Duke logged a sack and Massie accounted for 2.5 sacks himself, so the pair of pass rushers will have to take a step forward this offseason to ensure the Wildcat pass rush doesn’t take a step back.
Klieman added some help on the back end to help offset any loss of production up front.
Again utilizing the transfer portal, KSU brought in corner back Julius Brents from Iowa. Brents arrives at Kansas State as a junior, hoping to give the Wildcats multiple years of high end play in the secondary.
He will be joined by returning safety Jahron McPherson, who had a career day against the Sooners in 2020. Totaling 11 tackles on the day, McPherson forced a fumble and hauled in the game-sealing interception off the arm of Spencer Rattler.
The Wildcats are sure to have Oklahoma’s full attention, but the Sooners do have a date with the Texas Longhorns looming on the horizon immediately after they head to Kansas State.
Emerging from the Little Apple with their first win over Klieman would be a major statement that the young Sooners have taken the first steps to truly becoming national title contenders in 2021.