STILLWATER, Okla. — Maybe the Kansas State Wildcats aren't ready for prime time just yet.
But neither are they ready to throw in the towel, least of all first-year coach Chris Klieman.
"We've got to go back to work on Monday," Klieman said after Oklahoma State dominated his No. 24-ranked Wildcats for much of the game on the way to a 26-13 victory Saturday night at Boone Pickens Stadium. "Like I told the guys, we've got a good football team, we've got guys with great resolve (and) we've got a bunch of great leaders in there.
"Nothing's going to change from us as a coaching staff. We still believe in you, we still trust that we're going to continue to move forward and get better and they've got to do the same thing and flush this and get ready to go on Monday."
It was the first loss for the Wildcats under Klieman as they fell to 3-1 overall and 0-1 in the Big 12. It also was the first head coaching loss in 25 games for Klieman, dating back to 2017 at North Dakota State.
With the victory, Oklahoma State improved to 4-1, 1-1 in the Big 12 and should make a push to crack the national rankings after hovering in the No. 27 spot the past two weeks.
Despite two weeks to prepare for its Big 12 opener, K-State sputtered for most of the first half, especially on offense. A 10-point surge in the fourth quarter, created by interceptions from Elijah Sullivan and Darreyl Patterson, was too little, too late.
"It's tough to pinpoint and I probably won't know until I watch the film," senior wide receiver Dalton Schoen said after the Wildcats were limited to 244 yards, with 163 coming in the second half. "But out there it just felt like nothing was working initially, and it's hard from my experience to get something going when you can't get in a rhythm.
"I think we struggled just to get first downs early in the game and that kind of threw everyone off initially. It's just hard when you're not in a rhythm, to make plays."
The Wildcats, who trailed 16-3 at intermission, had just one first down in the first half, a 39-yard pass play from Skylar Thompson to Sammy Wheeler shortly after a one-hour, 12-minute lightning delay.
Oklahoma State, on the other hand rolled up 526 yards total offense, led by running back Chuba Hubbard's 296 yards on 25 carries, including a backbreaking 84-yard touchdown on the Cowboys' first possession of the second half.
"I just try to do my job," said Hubbard, who solidified his position as the leading rusher in the FBS. "The offensive linemen did an amazing job.
"I say this to everybody, but anybody could have done what I did today. There were big holes everywhere."
Hubbard was hardly the Cowboys' only offensive weapon. Freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders found wide receiver Tylan Howard eight times for 145 yards.
"He's a great football player," Klieman said of Hubbard. "He can run through arm tackles, he gets his shoulders squared and can outrun you.
"He's a dynamite player and this is a tough offense to defend, because you have to pick your poison a little bit of what you want to do. You've got a terrific wide receiver, a terrific quarterback and a terrific running back."
In fact, Klieman praised his defense for limiting the Cowboys to 26 points on two touchdowns and four Matt Ammendola field goals.
"Our goal was to handle the tempo, not get frustrated if they make a play and forget about the previous play and go to the next play and hold them to field goals," Klieman said. "We thought if we could play in the red zone, we'd have an opportunity, so I was pleased with that.
"Forget about the yards, I don't care about that. We held them to 26 points, which is a pretty good effort by our defense, and we created a few turnovers. Offensively we just couldn't get it going."
K-State quarterback Skylar Thompson was under duress much of the game and his receivers were blanketed by an aggressive OSU secondary. Thompson completed 11 of 23 passes for 118 yards, with Schoen and Phillip Brooks each catching three.
K-State was without redshirt freshman standout receiver Malik Knowles, who is out with what Klieman called a lower body injury.
The Wildcats got a 37-yard Blake Lynch field goal and a 5-yard touchdown run from James Gilbert in the fourth quarter. Lynch accounted for the other points with a 46-yard field goal in the second period.
Despite the loss, there was no sense of despair among the Wildcats, who return home next Saturday to face unbeaten Baylor in a 2:30 p.m. game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
"Just like anything in life, one moment doesn't define you," Thompson said. "A win or loss, none of that defines you or defines this team.
"How we respond to it is ultimately what's going to define us."