MANHATTAN, Kan. — Alex Barnes pounded away for 181 yards and four touchdowns, Kansas State’s much-maligned defense held Oklahoma State in check, and the Wildcats bludgeoned the slumping Cowboys in a 31-12 victory Saturday.
Skylar Thompson added 130 yards passing and 80 yards rushing for the Wildcats (3-4, 1-3 Big 12), who ended a three-game skid by beating the Cowboys in back-to-back games for the first time since 2002.
Oklahoma State (4-3, 1-3) led 6-3 at halftime before the Wildcats got their ground game going. They leaned heavily on Barnes, who ran for a career-best 250 yards last week against Baylor, and that allowed them to chew up the clock while keeping the Cowboys’ offense off the field.
Kansas State took the lead when Barnes capped a nine-play drive with a touchdown midway through the third quarter. He added his second scoring run a few minutes later, then answered a TD run by the Cowboys’ Taylor Cornelius with his third touchdown dart with 9:41 remaining in the game.
Cornelius finished 17 of 35 for 184 yards and two interceptions, while Cowboys running back Justice Hill spent most of afternoon bottled up. He carried 11 times for just 41 yards.
The first half resembled an old-school, Big Ten-style slugfest.
It certainly wasn’t the pass-happy Big 12.
The Wildcats dared the Cowboys to beat them through the air, and Cornelius had 45 of his 97 yards passing in the first half on the only completion that made them pay. But despite that long play getting Oklahoma State in scoring position, Kansas State’s defense managed to hold for a field goal.
The Wildcats, playing without wide receiver Dalton Schoen, basically abandoned the passing game altogether. Barnes had rumbled for 89 yards on 18 carries, and Thompson had 29 yards rushing while the sophomore quarterback was just 4 of 14 for 29 yards through the air.
The Wildcats squandered a chance to score just before halftime, when Thompson was sacked on third down in the closing seconds. Without a time out, the clock expired without a field-goal attempt.
Kansas State’s offensive line atoned for that mistake in the second half, asserting its will at the line of scrimmage. Barnes and backup Dalvin Warmack, who added 32 yards rushing, patiently danced through gaping holes and forced the Cowboys’ secondary to make tackles deep downfield.
They rode that success right through Barnes’ final touchdown run with a couple minutes to go.
Oklahoma State: An offense that averaged 523.3 yards per game coming into the day was rendered ineffective in the second half. Hill’s streak of 12 consecutive games with a touchdown rushing came to an end, as did the Cowboys’ impressive streak of 19 straight wins when leading at halftime.
Kansas State: The season-long search for an identity may have uncovered a smash-mouth approach that can produce results. The Wildcats were held to six points a few weeks ago at West Virginia, and two TDs in a loss to Texas. But their run-based attack has been on-point against Baylor and Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State is off before hosting ninth-ranked Texas.
Kansas State is off before visiting No. 11 Oklahoma.