Manhattan With a defensive touchdown and a big sigh of relief, No. 20 Oklahoma State got through a game without Justin Blackmon.
It wasn’t easy. Without the nation’s leading wide receiver, the attack that came in No. 3 nationally in total offense and No. 2 in scoring wheezed and sputtered much of the day, particularly in a 7-7 first half. But Brandon Weeden threw two TD passes, helping the penalty-plagued Cowboys (7-1 overall, 3-1 Big 12) beat the Wildcats, 24-14, on Saturday and stay on course for what could become a banner year.
Blackmon, suspended for the game after being arrested on a misdemeanor DUI charge, is expected back next week for Baylor.
“Blackmon is a great player,” said Weeden. “But we can win without one guy. We said that all along, we can fill that void. The guys did fill that void today. I was happy with the way the rest of the guys stepped up in his absence.”
Punter Quinn Sharp kept pinning Kansas State inside its 10, too.
Weeden was 22 for 39 for 298 yards and the two TD. Kendall Hunter rushed for 143 yards and Bo Bowling had eight catches for 92 yards, just six away from his season total coming in.
“Tonight was an opportunity for him to play a lot of snaps and develop some rapport with Brandon, which happened all week,” offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen said. “And it was good to see it translate into the game.”
The Cowboys’ 7-1 start ties for the second-best eight-game record in school history.
“We had to have a lot of people step up this game,” said wide receiver Josh Cooper, whose 16-yard TD reception put the Cowboys on top 14-7 in the third. “A lot of our young players came in and did a great job of making plays.”
Kansas State (5-3, 2-3) scored on Daniel Thomas’ 1-yard touchdown run with a little more than 4 minutes left, and then recovered the ensuing short kick. But an offside penalty forced the Wildcats to kick it again and Oklahoma State carefully gathered in the ball.
Carson Coffman was 23 for 35 for Kansas State, but threw two interceptions. Johnny Thomas returned the second one 26 yards for Oklahoma State’s final score.
“We had opportunities to win as an offense and I feel like I let the team down,” Coffman said. “I didn’t play very well today. I had two interceptions. The defense played great. They gave up 17 points to one of the best offenses in the nation and I just didn’t get it done.”
Weeden, No. 2 in the nation in yards passing per game, also connected with Michael Harrison for a 15-yard touchdown strike in the second quarter as the Cowboys rebounded from a 48-13 loss to Nebraska.
About as valuable as anyone for Oklahoma State was Sharp. With near-perfect trajectory and help from his coverage team, Quinn forced the Wildcats to start drives on their own 4, 8, 7 and 1.
“It’s always nice to hit a big ball, but I would definitely say pinning them down inside their own 20 is nice,” said Sharp, who came in leading the nation with an average of 48.2 yards per punt. “I mean it helps out our defense tremendously. You’re talking, you’ve got to make a team drive 80 yards every possession. It helped out our team a lot today.”
Starting from the 1 midway through the fourth quarter, Kansas State struggled to a first down on the 14. But Thomas stepped up to pick off Coffman’s pass and snaked his way 26 yards into the end zone, making it 24-7 with 7:06 to play.
“There were certain segments of the kicking game that hurt us, and (Sharp) is excellent,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said.
The Cowboys were flagged for 10 penalties for 100 yards. In one five-play sequence, the defense was called for roughing the passer, a personal foul and having 12 men on the field. But given a first down on the 11, the Wildcats wound up missing a 24-yard field goal attempt and the Cowboys responded to take the lead on Weeden’s pass to Harrison.
Thomas rushed for 101 yards for Kansas State, which took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on William Powell’s 8-yard run following Hunter’s fumble.
It was the fourth sellout in five games at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.