No. 2 Oklahoma Wary of Slumping Kansas St.

Saturday, October 16th 2004, 12:17 pm
By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Oklahoma found out what an underdog with some momentum is capable of in last year's Big 12 championship game. Final score: Kansas State 35, Sooners 7.

That's why the second-ranked Sooners _ favorites to reach the conference title at Arrowhead Stadium for a second straight year _ aren't taking Saturday's matchup against slumping Kansas State lightly.

Yes, the Wildcats (2-3, 0-2) are winless after two conference games. But so was the 2003 team, which then ran the table to win Kansas State's first conference championship since 1934.

``Last year, they started out the same way,'' said Jason White, Oklahoma's Heisman-winning quarterback. ``They came into the Big 12 championship game and played the best game they'd played against us and handed it to us.

``We don't look at them as down, we look at them as, 'It's going to be a big game for us.'''

And the Wildcats _ who will be playing at home in Manhattan, Kan., for the first time in a month _ also remember last season.

``Last year, they didn't give us a chance in this game and definitely they're not going to give us a chance this year, if our record is any indication,'' tight end Brian Casey said. ``We know we have a good team. We know we could be 4-1 at this point if we made some better decisions the last two games. I don't fear anybody.''

The Wildcats have every reason to respect the Sooners (5-0, 2-0).

Freshman running back Adrian Peterson has rushed for 771 yards and six scores, and White has thrown for 972 yards and nine touchdowns, completing 66 percent of his passes with only three interceptions.

``They're every bit as good, and in many cases better, than they were a year ago,'' Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. ``I think Adrian Peterson adds a tremendous dimension to their football team.''

The 2003 defeat cost Oklahoma a shot at a unified national title, and they didn't even get to share one after losing 21-14 to LSU in the Bowl Championship Series title game at the Sugar Bowl.

``We hate that we lost to them last year,'' Oklahoma fullback J.D. Runnels said, ``but we can't go in there being mad. We just have to prepare mentally and physically for them.''

Kansas State, meanwhile, can't afford many more losses if it hopes to extend its 11-year string of bowl appearances. And there would be no better way for the Wildcats to get their season back on track than by beating the nation's second-ranked team.

``One game never makes a season, but you want to start stringing some victories together,'' co-offensive coordinator Greg Peterson said. ``We've got to find ways to make plays against them.

``We mentioned this a year ago _ all we did was try to go back to work and see how we could get better each and every day. And that's what we need to do right now.''