OU vs. Kansas State football: Will the Sooners defeat Deuce Vaughn and the Wildcats?

OU returns home at 7 p.m. Saturday for a game against Kansas State.

The Wildcats (2-1, 0-0 Big 12) were seen as an underrated contender in the Big 12, but that hype diminished following a 17-10 loss to Tulane in Week 3.

To learn more about OU's Week 4 opponent, we spoke with Kellis Robinett. He's the Kansas State football beat writer for the Wichita Eagle and Kansas City Star, and this is what he had to say about the Wildcats:

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Sep 17, 2022; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Adrian Martinez (9) scrambles during the first quarter against the Tulane Green Wave at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 17, 2022; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Adrian Martinez (9) scrambles during the first quarter against the Tulane Green Wave at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

What are the main takeaways from Kansas State's loss to Tulane?

Robinett: There's quite a few things that they can improve on. Not many people in Manhattan, including myself, saw that loss coming. Kansas State opened as a 20-point favorite. Even at game time, they were a two-touchdown favorite, and they go out and lose by seven on a day when they get basically nothing from their offense. They were 2-for-15 on third down, 1-for-5 on fourth down. Adrian Martinez, the guy everybody brought in thinking he would be an improved version of what he was at Nebraska, just kind of looks broken right now at quarterback. It's just an unexpected twist in the season that got thrown in there. The defense is playing well. They played well enough to win in all three games, but the offense has been a little bit up and down. And then they were way down against Tulane. Going up against a team like Oklahoma that can play good defense and move the ball, they're going to have to figure out something to get the ball moving downfield or else they're not going to be able to spring an upset.

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Adrian Martinez led Nebraska in both passing yards and rushing yards last season. Why hasn't he lived up to expectations so far at Kansas State?

Robinett: When he came in, I think Kansas State fans were really hoping they would get all of the highlight plays that he had at Nebraska with maybe half of the turnovers (13 last season). If that could've happened, then he would've been a terrific quarterback for Kansas State or anywhere else, really. His highlights at Nebraska were really good. He had over 11,000 total yards over four seasons with the Cornhuskers, which is not really easy to do against some Big Ten defenses. He even had 384 yards one game while he was there. Now he's at Kansas State, but what they've basically gotten so far through three games is a guy who is terrified to take chances. He's heard so much about his turnovers that I think he's just unwilling to even throw the ball downfield. It's almost like his goal for this season is not to turn the ball over a single time, and he's done that. He hasn't turned the ball over once since he's switched to a purple uniform, but his highlights are way down. Like I mentioned, he threw for 384 yards in a (2018) game against Wisconsin while he was at Nebraska. Now he's at Kansas State and, through three games, he only has 304 passing yards total. He's only taken one deep shot all season, and it was an incomplete pass. They're already calling him Captain Checkdown here in Manhattan. He's averaging under five yards per pass attempt (4.6). It's just really bizarre. He doesn't really want to run the way he did at Nebraska. He doesn't want to push the issue like he did at Nebraska. I'm not sure if he thought he could just come in here, be a game manager and let everybody else win the games for him. But as Tulane showed us, if you line up and take away Deuce Vaughn, you have to have something else. Until Adrian Martinez learns to start throwing the ball downfield and make defenses respect a vertical passing game, I guess that result is going to keep happening.

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Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn runs for a touchdown during a Sept. 10 game against Missouri.
Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn runs for a touchdown during a Sept. 10 game against Missouri.

Deuce Vaughn is Kansas State's workhorse on offense, but which other guys need to step up?

Robinett: I would say two guys who really haven't done much yet this season would be their top two receivers, Phillip Brooks and Malik Knowles. Knowles is their deep threat in the passing game. When Skylar Thompson was here and he'd look downfield, Malik was his guy. If Kansas State is going to add a vertical element to the passing game this week, he's where it's going to start from. Phillip Brooks is their other top receiver. He's more of a slot guy, get open, get him the ball and let him create in space. He's had one game where he was able to do that this season, but he's been really quiet in the other two. Those would be the two guys I would focus on. And maybe DJ Giddens, the backup running back. He has had two touchdowns, and he had a few good runs last week. On top of Deuce Vaughn, those are really the three key guys.

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Who are Kansas State's biggest disrupters on defense?

Robinett: It's not easy against Dillon Gabriel and that Oklahoma offense, which was absolutely humming last week at Nebraska. But the good news for the Wildcats is they do have some playmakers on that side of the ball. They've allowed a grand total of 29 points all season. If they keep that going, you would be looking at guys like Felix Anudike-Uzomah, a defense end and the preseason Big 12 defensive player of the year. Eli Huggins is a defensive tackle in the middle. In the back, there's Kobe Savage, a safety straight out of junior college who has had an interception in back-to-back games. He's been really impressive. And then I would say Ekow Boye-Doe, a cornerback who actually played his very first college football game at Oklahoma two years ago when Kansas State won there. It was kind of his coming-out party. It'll be interesting to see if, when he returns to that setting, he can have another good game.

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Missouri quarterback Brady Cook (12) is tackled by Kansas State safety Kobe Savage during a Sept. 10 game in Manhattan, Kan.
Missouri quarterback Brady Cook (12) is tackled by Kansas State safety Kobe Savage during a Sept. 10 game in Manhattan, Kan.

Kansas State's defense is tied for second in the nation with seven interceptions. How much does the group pride itself in getting takeaways?

Robinett: They've been good. No complaints, really, at all from the secondary. We've seen (two) interceptions from Kobe Savage, we've seen Cincere Mason grab (two) and even some linebackers have had some interceptions. I will say, the turnover number is probably a little inflated because four of those came back-to-back-to-back-to-back in the second half against Missouri. It was in the middle of a thunderstorm here in Manhattan. Missouri was down (20-6) and trying to claw back in the game. Dealing with a wet ball, Kansas State's defensive backs really loved that setting and just baited Missouri into throwing deep balls. They got underneath it and got some interceptions. It's not exactly a repeatable thing every week, but credit to them for pulling it off. Last week, they went out and got two more interceptions. They got a big one from Daniel Green, a linebacker. Pretty much, everybody other than the defensive front has been a threat to intercept a pass this season.

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What's the biggest thing Kansas State has to do to beat OU?

Robinett: They've got to throw the ball. Adrian Martinez hasn't thrown for anything close to 200 yards in a Kansas State uniform. His numbers are 53, 101 and 150. At 304 yards for the season, I think he's got to challenge that number just in this game. Maybe he doesn't have to get to 300, but at least between 200 and 250 yards. We've seen in the past when Kansas State has been successful against Oklahoma, which they were under Skylar Thompson with Chris Klieman as coach. They won back-to-back games in 2019 and 2020. That was with Skylar Thompson playing red-hot. He scored a bunch of touchdowns, threw the ball downfield and had a good rapport with the receivers. If Adrian Martinez can do something like that and open up some running lanes for Deuce Vaughn, then I'll think they'll have a chance. But if he comes out and is just throwing a bunch of checkdowns again, I think the Sooners win here and probably cover pretty easily.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU vs Kansas State football: Will Sooners beat Deuce Vaughn, Wildcats?