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OU-Kansas State GameDay: X-Factors

The Light Show ... Special Teams ... Ball Security ... Contain Adrian Martinez

John Hoover: The Light Show

Oklahoma’s new LEDs may seem almost superfluous to the average fan. The real show is on the field, after all. Isn’t it?

Fans can contribute to the light show, too. 

Fans can contribute to the light show, too. 

But the reality is players love those things.

We found out what they looked like two weeks ago as OU thumped Kent State in the second half — after the sun went down and the scoreboard lit up — but in interviews this week and last, players hinted that that was just a “taste.” With a 7 o’clock kickoff Saturday against Kansas State, they said they expect the atmosphere on the field to be “electric,” literally. Several players this week also talked about how the environment — some even called it a nightclub or a party (other observers pinpointed it as a “rave”) — can actually intimidate the opponent. At $3.7 million, that would be a bargain — especially if it becomes an edge OU needs against a Kansas State team that likes to play in a phone booth.

Now, if the Big 12 would just do something about all those 11 a.m. kickoffs. …

Ryan Chapman: Special Teams

Both Oklahoma and Kansas State have been excellent on special teams through three weeks. 

Marvin Mims returns one against Nebraska.

Marvin Mims returns one against Nebraska.

Marvin Mims already has more punt return yards this year than the Sooners logged throughout the entirety of the 2021 season, and Mims ranks sixth in the country among returners with at least three punt returns averaging 19.7 yards per return. 

On the other side, the Wildcats blocked a punt for a touchdown in Week 1 against South Dakota and Phillip Brooks housed a punt in Week 2 against Missouri. 

Kansas State is notorious for playing fundamentally sound football on offense and defense and then exploiting a massive advantage on special teams. If the Sooners can play to at least a draw, much less win the special teams battle, they’ll stand a great chance of once again winning the field position battle and making life easier on both the OU offense and defense. 

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Josh Callaway: Ball Security

So far this year, both Oklahoma and Kansas State have done a great job at protecting the football. In fact, Dillon Gabriel and Adrian Martinez have combined to throw precisely zero interceptions to this point. 

Dillon Gabriel

Dillon Gabriel

This will be a key area on Saturday. For the Sooners, forcing Martinez into some turnovers will leave the Wildcats with close to no chance to win this game when you pair that with their limitations offensively. 

On the flip side, if Kansas State can make Oklahoma cough up the football, that creates at least some hope of a path for the upset. 

Ball security is going to be key for both teams on Saturday and will likely have a heavy hand in determining what kind of game is played.

Ross Lovelace: Contain Adrian Martinez

This will be Oklahoma’s biggest test against a running quarterback so far this season.

Adrian Martinez against Tulane.

Adrian Martinez against Tulane.

Through three games, Kansas State quarterback Adrian Martinez already has 150 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He’s at his best when he’s on the move, giving his guys time to get separation, and finding receivers open down the field.

At Nebraska a season ago, Martinez rushed for an impressive 13 touchdowns. If Kansas State is near the goal line on Saturday, Martinez is always a threat to run it in. 

Factoring in the fact that the Wildcats have arguably the best running back in the conference in Deuce Vaughn, the Sooners' defense is going to have to be extra disciplined.