Looks like 78-year-old Kansas State coach Bill Snyder still knows how to reach young people.
Snyder made it a point to tell his team it was a heavy underdog heading into Saturday's matchup with No. 10 Oklahoma State, and it was the perfect button to push. Byron Pringle caught three touchdown passes and returned a kickoff for another score to help the Wildcats stun the Cowboys 45-40 on Saturday.
The Wildcats were a 19 1/2-point underdog Friday.
"We all knew it wasn't an accurate number, but I told them you're going to have to go out there and prove it, and we proved it tonight," Snyder said.
Oklahoma State nearly erased a 29-point deficit in the second half, but Kansas State (6-5, 4-4 Big 12) held on to become bowl eligible for the eighth consecutive season.
"This is what we've been capable of all year long," Kansas State linebacker Jayd Kirby said.
Pringle caught four passes for a career-high 166 yards the day after his 24th birthday. His kickoff return touchdown covered 89 yards. The junior entered the game with eight career touchdowns, and he had never scored more than two in a game.
Freshman Skylar Thompson threw for 204 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 93 yards and a score in his second start for the injured Jesse Ertz.
Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph passed for 425 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score. James Washington caught eight passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns for the Cowboys (8-3, 5-3, No. 13 CFP).
Kansas State led 28-13 at halftime. The Wildcats ran for 132 yards in the first half and intercepted two of Rudolph's passes. Pringle got loose for a 46-yard touchdown grab to put the Wildcats up 35-13 in the third quarter, then caught a 60-yarder a few minutes later to make it 42-13 before Rudolph got it going.
Rudolph threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Dillon Stoner to cut Kansas State's lead to 45-40 with 4:02 to go. The Wildcats went three-and-out to give Oklahoma State a chance to take the lead, but Rudolph missed four straight passes, then Kansas State ran out the clock.
It was Oklahoma State's third home loss, and it crushed the Cowboys' already slim chances of reaching the College Football Playoff.
"We all need to look at ourselves and figure out what's going on because for whatever reason, we're not showing up," coach Mike Gundy said.
Kansas State: The Wildcats finally caught a break in a close game. They had lost by seven points to Vanderbilt, six points to Texas, seven points to Oklahoma and five points to West Virginia this season.
"The defense had a role in it, the offense had a role, special teams had a role," Snyder said. "We can be a decent team when all three aspects are involved."
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys couldn't get their offense going until late. Rudolph was off, and his receivers had some costly drops early.
Rudolph wasn't sure why he struggled to start of the game.
"I don't really know," he said. "That's a good question. I don't think we played very well as a whole, so we'll have to go back and watch the tape."
Oklahoma State's offense posted big numbers, despite being dormant for a long stretch. In one span of six possessions from the middle of the second quarter to late in the third, the Cowboys ran 25 plays, gained 55 yards and did not score.
"We couldn't throw and couldn't catch, which the chances of that happening are slim in my opinion," Gundy said.
Thompson on Pringle's performance: "We just have a lot of confidence in one another and I know if I see any separation with Byron, I know I can put it in a spot and I know he's going to go get it for me. It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders, I know I can just put it up there in a spot where he can go get it, and gosh dang, he did it today."
Kansas State: Hosts Iowa State on Saturday.
Oklahoma State: Hosts Kansas on Saturday.