Big 12: Brian Casey
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Sproles, Roberson send Stoops crashing to lone title-game loss
Date: Dec. 6, 2003
Place: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
Score: Kansas State 35, Oklahoma 7
Top-ranked Oklahoma was on the verge on running the table en route to a perfect season and a trip to the BCS championship game when it entered the title game aiming for their third championship in the last four seasons.
Kansas State had struggled earlier in the year, losing at home to Marshall, the start of a three-game losing streak. A trip to the Big 12 title game after an 0-2 conference start wasn't even a consideration for the Wildcats until they caught fire late in the season.
A stout KSU defense that had allowed only 39 points in its last five regular-season games was the reason the Wildcats claimed the North title. That group would be tested by an explosive Sooner offense keyed by Jason White.
The Sooners looked ready to continue that run after KeJuan Jones scored on a 42-yard run less than three minutes into the game on the Sooners' fourth play from scrimmage.
But when usually reliable kicker Trey DiCarlo shanked a 44-yard field goal to start the second quarter, KSU had an opening. And the Wildcats took advantage of it immediately as diminutive tailback Darren Sproles gashed the Sooners on a 55-yard run on the next play. Quarterback Ell Roberson hooked up with Brian Casey on a 19-yard TD pass three plays later to tie the score.
Roberson, a streaky quarterback during much his career at KSU, gave the Wildcats the lead for good on a 63-yard strike to James Terry 2:23 later. It typified a tough night for Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, who had announced several days earlier he would accept the vacant coaching job at Arizona after the championship game.
Oklahoma, which had averaged 56.5 points in its last four games before the championship game, also struggled with offensive mistakes. A dropped pass by Jejuan Rankins killed the next drive on fourth down. And White was victimized on an end zone interception on the Sooners' next possession.
Sproles provided another big play shortly before halftime when he scooted 60 yards on a screen pass for a touchdown to give the Wildcats a 21-7 halftime edge.
The Sooners took the opening drive of the second half, but came up empty after a seven-minute drive when DiCarlo hooked a 28-yard field goal attempt.
Kansas State answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 10-yard strike from Roberson to Antoine Polite with 3:02 left in the third quarter.
And with 10:16 left, Kansas State linebacker Ted Sims snatched a White interception and rambled on a 27-yard TD return to ice the victory.
The stunning upset brought the Wildcats their first conference football championship since winning the Big Six in 1934, capping the biggest victory during Bill Snyder's coaching tenure.
They said it, part I: "We just got our butt whipped. I'm not going to sit here and lobby our way into a bowl game. If the BCS says we're in, we're in," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, after his team's loss.
They said it, part II: "Let the little man run it. If they don't respect him, we'll throw it. That's what it came down to," Kansas State quarterback Ell Roberson, describing the Wildcats' heavy use of Darren Sproles in the upset.
They said it, part III: "Our D-line was making him scramble all day and really getting to his head. He was so scared," Kansas State linebacker Josh Buhl, describing to the Associated Press the Wildcats' strategy against Jason White.
They said it, part IV: "They put pressure on us and got to us a few times. They hit us where we are weak," Oklahoma quarterback Jason White.
Factoids: Oklahoma's defense came into the game allowing only 234 yards per game. But they were gashed by Sproles, who rushed for 235 yards on 22 carries -- most ever gained against an Oklahoma defense to that point in its history. Sproles also added three receptions for 88 yards ... Roberson did the rest, completing 10-of-17 passing for 227 yards and four TDs and adding 62 rushing yards ... Coming into the game, Oklahoma's defense had surrendered only seven touchdown passes all season ... Kansas State blistered the Sooners for 519 yards on 58 plays, an average of 8.94 yards per snap ... The loss snapped a 14-game winning streak for the Sooners, longest in the nation at the time of the game ... The seven points were the lowest point total ever for a team coached by Bob Stoops ... The victory was the first time that Kansas State beat a No. 1 ranked team in 10 tries ... White struggled with Kansas State's "Purple on White" defensive scheme. He completed 27-of-50 passes for 298 yards, but was intercepted twice. ... The Sooners produced only one score despite advancing inside Kansas State territory four times in the first half ... DiCarlo's two misses came after he had converted 19 of 20 field-goal attempts for the season coming into the game.
The upshot: Oklahoma's upset loss threw the Bowl Championship Series into turmoil when the Sooners fell to No. 3 in both major polls after the game. But they remained No. 1 in the final BCS poll, qualifying for a shot at the national championship against LSU in the Sugar Bowl. But the Tigers claimed a 21-14 victory over the Sooners -- the first of Stoops' current streak of five consecutive BCS bowl losses.
That loss dropped the Sooners to 12-2 for the season as they finished No. 3 in the final Associated Press poll.
Despite the loss against Kansas State, White won the Heisman Trophy the week after the game. He nosed out Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald by 128 points to become the first Oklahoma quarterback to win the award.
Kansas State's victory boosted the Wildcats into the Fiesta Bowl in their first BCS bowl trip in school history. But Ohio State claimed a 35-28 victory in that game, snapping the Wildcats' seven-winning streak coming into the game. Kansas State finished the season 11-4 and No. 14 in the final AP poll, the last time the Wildcats were ranked at the end of the season.
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