STILLWATER, Okla. — Turns out there's a reason Kansas State football players have hyped Byron Pringle the past two years.
Pringle, a junior receiver, flashed his potential during a 45-40 victory over No. 10 Oklahoma State on Saturday at Pickens Stadium by zooming his way up and down the field for 280 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns.
He consistently burned Oklahoma State defenders for four catches, 166 yards and three touchdowns, and also returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown.
His monster game, combined with strong quarterback play from Skylar Thompson and a solid defensive effort, enabled the Wildcats to pull off one of the most unlikely upsets in school history. Never before had they won as 21-point underdogs.
This also ended a 14-game losing streak to ranked opponents and gave them their first victory over a top 10 team since 2012. It was K-State's first win in Stillwater since 1999.
The Wildcats (6-5, 4-4 Big 12) are now bowl eligible. The Cowboys (8-3, 5-3) are no longer in contention for a conference championship.
This one was never in doubt ... until it looked like it was over.
Few expected this, especially when K-State took the field without a long list of key players. Usual starters D.J. Reed (defensive back), Dayton Valentine (tight end), Dalton Schoen (receiver), and Jesse Ertz and Alex Delton (quarterbacks) all missed this game.
And yet, K-State dominated most of the way.
Pringle was the main reason why. That was a change of pace for the former junior-college transfer. Though he has been a steady contributor during his two seasons with the Wildcats, his play has often left fans wanting more.
That changed Saturday. He exploded for one huge play after another, looking like an all-conference playmaker. His touchdown grabs were bombs of 46, 47 and 60 yards.
It helped to have Thompson throwing perfect spirals in his direction. This was also his best game of the season, as he completed 10 of 13 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns. His confidence appeared shaken during his first start last week against West Virginia, but he bounced back in a big way in all phases. He also ran for 93 yards and a touchdown.
His third touchdown pass gave K-State a 42-13 lead with 5:22 remaining in the third quarter, and running back Alex Barnes (86 yards and a touchdown) helped clinch the game with several nice runs.
On defense, linebackers Jayd Kirby and Trent Tanking helped hold the nation's second-rated offense well below its usual output. While they piled up tackles, Duke Shelley and Kendall Adams both made interceptions. Will Geary, Kyle Ball and Trey Dishon all had sacks.
Oklahoma State made a late push, and it was nearly enough.
After falling behind 42-13, they cut it all the way down to 45-40 and had the ball at midfield with 2:16 remaining. But the Wildcats forced a turnover on downs in four plays to preserve victory.
It was fitting end for a game that started almost perfectly for Kansas State.
The short-handed Wildcats raced to a 28-13 lead with some of their best execution of the season.
They got things started with a vintage K-State touchdown drive that covered 71 yards in 10 plays _ all of them runs. Thompson sprinted like a poor man's Vince Young and had 65 rushing yards and a touchdown before Oklahoma State touched the ball.
It was interesting to see the Wildcats call so many designed quarterback runs, given that Thompson is the only healthy quarterback listed on the depth chart. Last week, K-State coach Bill Snyder said they dialed back Thompson's running responsibilities "for obvious reasons." That wasn't the case here, and the tough mindset paid dividends.
Oklahoma State responded with a 38-yard touchdown strike from Mason Rudolph to James Washington to tie the game at 7-7 with 5:51 remaining in the first quarter and then took a 10-7 lead on a Matt Ammendola field goal.
But the Wildcats, as they always seem to do in Stillwater, made plays as underdogs.
After pounding the ball on the ground most of the game, Thompson used a play-action fake to confuse Oklahoma State's defense and loft a 47-yard touchdown pass to Pringle, who easily beat man coverage deep.
Pringle stayed hot by returning a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown 5 minutes later to give the Wildcats a 21-13 lead.
K-State is at its best when it scores in unconventional ways, and the Wildcats were flexing their muscles in all three phases of the game. Duke Shelley and Kendall Adams kept the Cowboys out of the end zone for the remainder of the half by both coming up with interceptions.
Then Barnes gave K-State a two-score lead when he burst through a hole and hugged the right sideline for a 39-yard touchdown run.
K-State, a 21-point underdog, was in control by halftime.
Pringle was just getting started. He finally lived up to the hype.