MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) – Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops remains almost reverential when he speaks of Bill Snyder, the longtime Kansas State maestro who gave Stoops one of his first big breaks in coaching.
Stoops hasn’t necessarily been kind to him, though.
He left a sour taste in Snyder’s mouth when he poached several assistants upon taking over the Sooners some 15 years ago, and then has delivered a series of whippings on the field. Stoops is 7-2 against Snyder, the lone losses in the 2003 Big 12 title game and again last season.
When they meet on Saturday, Stoops will be chasing history against his mentor. He needs just one more victory to break a tie with Barry Switzer for the most among Oklahoma coaches.
“Winning there would be great for our season and this season. Outside of that, Coach Snyder and I aren’t going to play,” Stoops said. “We have teams and staff and a bunch of people working with us. It’ll be one team against the other.”
Snyder spoke glowingly of Stoops this week, despite their somewhat shaky history. After all, he remembers a time before Stoops’ arrival when Oklahoma was struggling to win games.
“To go there and do what they have done,” Snyder said, “to establish the program to the level of what it has been and is, is a pretty special achievement.”
The No. 22 Sooners (8-2, 5-2 Big 12) will be starting Trevor Knight at quarterback due to lingering effects from a concussion that Blake Bell sustained last week against Iowa state.
Knight could also be without two of his top offensive playmakers, running back Damien Williams and wide receiver Lacolton Bester, who reportedly have been suspended for Saturday’s game.
“It’s the same offense,” Sooners running back Brennan Clay insisted this week.
The Wildcats (6-4, 4-3), meanwhile, likely will be chasing their fifth straight win without safety Ty Zimmerman, one of their top tacklers. He was hurt in last week’s win over TCU, and while Snyder is coy about injuries, teammates indicated Zimmerman may be done for the season.
The ability of Oklahoma and Kansas State to absorb the loss of key players will be crucial on Saturday. Here are five other things to keep in mind:
KNIGHT VS THOMPSON: Knight will start for the Sooners, but Kendal Thompson could see some action. The son of former Oklahoma quarterback Charles Thompson, he got into a game for the first time last week and led his team on a 90-yard touchdown drive. “I was so excited to see Kendal out there,” Clay said. “He did a great job stepping in.”
WALK-ON, WALK-ON: Kansas State defensive end Ryan Mueller, a former walk-on is fifth in the nation with 10 1/2 sacks. He’s also among the leaders in the FBS with 16 tackles for loss. “It just speaks to our great coaching and the system that we have here,” said linebacker Jonathan Truman, also a former walk-on. “If you have the right attitude, work hard, go through the system and listen to coaching, then you have the chance to be successful.”
TULSA PRIDE: Oklahoma linebacker Dominique Alexander and Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett were teammates at Booker T. Washington High School. On Saturday, they’ll be lined up on the opposite side of the ball from each other. “I’m looking forward to it. I’ve never played against him,” Alexander said. “One of my best friends. It’s going to be fun.”
WATERS AND SAMS: While it’s possible that Oklahoma will shuffle quarterbacks a bit, it’s a certainty that Kansas State will play more than one. Jake Waters and Daniel Sams have been trading off and on for weeks, often within the same series. “You got to know what formations both of them ran and you’ve got to know what both quarterbacks are capable of doing,” Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker said, “and that’ll be the key and preparing for that through practice.”
BOWL BOUND: The Sooners and Wildcats are already bound for bowl games. Now it’s a matter of improving their status. Oklahoma is fourth in the Big 12 behind Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas, while the Wildcats are a game back in fifth. That means their game Saturday could have a big impact on where they spend the holidays. “Even though we did not have a chance to win the Big 12,” Sams said, “it feels good to see all of your teammates giving their all just to win the rest of the season. When you still see the guys giving their all, it feels good to know that everybody still cares about finishing.”
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