Kansas State coach Bill Snyder had watched Oklahoma State slice so effortless through his defense on the game's opening drive that he wondered whether the tone had been set.
Morgan Burns didn't give him a chance to think anything more of it.
The speedy cornerback returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown, and that set the No. 11 Wildcats off and running. Jake Waters threw two TD passes, Charles Jones ran for two more scores and Kansas State routed the Cowboys 48-14 on Saturday night.
"You've got a lot of guys, sometimes when that happens, they're standing around looking at each other like, 'Wow, what's going on?' Snyder said about the opening drive, in which Oklahoma State went 86 yards in just eight plays. "And it didn't happen. There wasn't time for it to happen."
The rest of the game belonged to the Wildcats.
Curry Sexton had nine catches for 159 yards and a touchdown, and Tyler Lockett had six receptions for 94 yards and a score, helping Kansas State (7-1, 5-0, No. 9 CFP) remain the lone unbeaten team in the Big 12 heading into next week's showdown at 10th-ranked TCU.
"I know it's going to be a heck of a matchup, a tough place to play," Sexton said. "We're happy with where we're at, we're happy with how we're playing, but we're not satisfied."
After its opening touchdown drive Oklahoma State (5-4, 3-3) never threatened on offense again. The Cowboys managed only a pick-six by Ramon Richards in the fourth quarter in losing their third straight game for the first time since the 2005 season.
Tyreek Hill had 102 yards rushing and a touchdown in place of leading rusher Desmond Roland, who missed the trip following a death in his family. Daxx Garman threw for 148 yards and was picked off twice, one of them when the Cowboys were deep in Kansas State territory.
Oklahoma State had only 48 yards of offense in the second half.
"We worked our butt off the first 5 minutes to get a 7-0 lead on the road and quiet the stadium," Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. "We turn around and in 10 seconds we give up a return for a touchdown. That's the way it has gone for us this year."
The Wildcats have won five straight since a narrow loss to fourth-ranked Auburn, but the schedule is about to get a lot tougher. After visiting the Horned Frogs, Kansas State must travel to No. 20 West Virginia, with a game at No. 12 Baylor looming at the end of the season.
In other words, the road to college football's inaugural playoff is a bumpy one.
"This next week, that's all we have in mind right now," Snyder said.
After the Cowboys and Wildcats traded touchdowns in the opening minutes of the game, Kansas State put things away with 38 unanswered points spanning halftime.
Jones started the onslaught with his first touchdown run, and Waters connected with Sexton for a 17-yard score early in the second quarter. Waters then hit Lockett from 20 yards out in the third quarter, giving Kansas State a 28-7 advantage.
On that drive, Lockett passed current Packers star Jordy Nelson for second in school history in yards receiving, and tied Quincy Morgan in career touchdown catches. Lockett has 2,877 yards and 23 TD grabs, trailing only father Kevin Lockett (3,032 yards, 26 TDs) in both categories.
"It means a lot," Lockett said, "but I'm just going to keep playing."
The game truly got out of hand when the Cowboys fumbled on their next possession, and Kansas State needed three plays to go 37 yards for a score. Backup quarterback Joe Hubener added a sneak with 9 1/2 minutes to go make it 45-7, and Matt McCrane's career-long 53-yard field goal in the final minutes gave the few fans left one last reason to cheer.
Now, the attention turns to the Horned Frogs and a pivotal game in the Big 12 race — not to mention the race for one of the four spots in the playoffs.
"I thought we showed signs of clicking on all cylinders," said Waters, who hasn't committed a turnover in his last five games, "but we still have work to do."
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