Let’s get the obvious out of the way now: Kansas State’s performance on Saturday against No. 5 Oklahoma was, for all intents and purposes, deserving of a victory. But that’s what makes exactly how the 48-41 win was sealed all the more frustrating.
With less than 13 minutes left in the game, Wildcats running back James Gilbert ran the two yards required to make it into the end zone and give his team a 25-point lead over the heavily favored Sooners. Given how porous Oklahoma’s defense looked, and how middling the offense, the game appeared all but sealed. Jalen Hurts, however, wasn’t scared of the challenge. He cut the lead down to 18 with a one-play drive that featured a 70-yard touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb—though, to be fair, calling it a “touchdown pass” doesn’t do Lamb’s effort here justice.
The defense forced a punt five plays later, and then the Sooners scored another touchdown on a 10-play, 90-yard drive which cut the lead to 10 after a two-point conversion. Again, the Oklahoma defense stepped up, but this time, the offense didn’t go quite as far as it had previously, and the Lincoln Riley was forced to use his last timeout so that he could send his field goal unit out and cut the lead to seven. The Sooners were now forced to go with the now-neutered onside kick to have any hope of completing a comeback that looked rather improbable just 10 minutes earlier.
For a brief moment, it looked like it was going to happen. Oklahoma tight end Brayden Willis got to the loose football, and the Sooner sideline went wild with excitement. All that had to happen was that the play needed to survive the review process for this season-defining drive to begin. Upon further review, however, it appeared that the ball had bounced off of an Oklahoma player a half yard short of the required 10-yards a ball needs to travel before the kicking team could touch it. It would appear that this decision was made off of analyzing two mere frames of footage for almost 10 minutes, but it was made nonetheless and Manhattan, Kan. erupted in an all-white rendition of “Mo Bamba.”
What’s frustrating about the way this occurred has nothing to do with officials, the rules—though some on Oklahoma Twitter are arguing that the refs did blow the call according to the rulebook—or even instant replay as a way to make judgment calls. The main gripe here is that piece of modern technology was used to essentially determine the outcome of a game within a system that is nowhere near as modern. The fact of the matter is that, had the camera not caught this brief ricochet and a red-hot Oklahoma offense been allowed to travel the 38 yards necessary to score a touchdown, the game most certainly would have ended in a victory for the Sooners. Because of how college rankings work, the fact that win would have at least kept them in the top-5 and their College Playoff hopes very much alive. However, because that didn’t happen, and Oklahoma took the loss, the hit their ranking will take given the circumstances will be enormous. It would take a monumental statistical run for the remainder of the season to even get a whiff of a playoff opportunity. And yet, even if they don’t do that, Oklahoma could very well still be one of the best four teams in the country. The team just wouldn’t be properly rewarded for it because a decision based on two frames of video ended up derailing a team’s entire season.