Kansas State’s perfect season came to a crashing halt at Baylor on Saturday. The Wildcats, unable to stop the Bears or move the ball like they did during their first 10 games, played their worst game of the season and lost 52-24.
Few expected Baylor, a team with one of the nation’s worst defenses, to pull the upset. But it did so easily.
How did it happen? A look at all that and more in this week’s Sunday Rewind:
1. What has happened to K-State’s offense?
After scoring at least 44 points in six of their first nine games, the Wildcats are suddenly struggling to move the ball. They scored 24 points against Baylor and 23 against TCU. A fine defensive effort helped them get past the Horned Frogs, but that wasn’t the case Saturday with the Bears churning out 580 yards of offense. K-State needed to be at its best on offense to keep up. Even against a woeful defense, it didn’t happen. That’s partly because Baylor was able to jump out to a sizable lead, and K-State turned to Collin Klein to call his own passing plays in the second half. But the Wildcats could have stuck with a balanced approach longer than they did. Klein isn’t as effective when he can’t run the ball, and he threw three interceptions while forcing the issue. Still, bigger factors seem to be a struggling offensive line and an injured receiving corps. K-State isn’t blocking up front like it used to. It gained 106 rushing yards, but lost 30 on sacks and other unsuccessful plays. Klein is dealing with more pressure than he used to and is no longer a sure thing to gain short yardage on quarterback sneaks. Without Tyler Lockett (he played less than usual against Baylor) or Curry Sexton (he stayed home) to throw to he also doesn’t have as many outlets. K-State’s offense is hurting because of it.
2. Baylor’s offense took a perfect approach.
Give the Bears credit, they exposed K-State’s defense with a great gameplan. Nick Florence threw a lot of short, quick passes to the perimeter of the field that made the Wildcats’ stretch their secondary. Then he went over the top for an early 38-yard touchdown to Tevin Reese (against freshman safety Dante Barnett). And then Baylor running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin got going. Seastrunk rushed for 185 yards and Martin had 113, with most of their yardage coming on runs up the gut. Not having Ty Zimmerman hurt, but K-State has been strong against the run for two years. Its defensive line and linebackers couldn’t stop anything Saturday. “Usually we always stop the run and make teams pass on us,” said defensive back Randall Evans. “Things didn’t go our way today. We’ve got to go back and practice. You can’t just look at one dimension.”
3. K-State’s national title hopes are all but gone, but the Fiesta Bowl is still in play.
To be clear, the Wildcats still have a (very) outside shot of playing for a BCS championship. If Notre Dame loses to USC, if Oregon loses to Oregon State, if Florida State beats Florida, if Florida State loses in the ACC championship game and K-State beats Texas it could play the winner of the SEC championship game for the national title. But if all that doesn’t happen, it can earn a Big 12 title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl by beating Texas. A loss to the Longhorns would send the Wildcats back to the Cotton Bowl or lower. So the Wildcats still have plenty to play for.
A few that were good:
He made a key interception in the third quarter that set up a touchdown and came through with a few nice tackles. The defensive back was one of K-State’s best defensive players Saturday.
Malone made an interception, broke up a pass and had some good tackles. He got beat a time or two, but made enough big plays to help K-State’s defense overall.
With K-State’s receiving corps battling injuries, Harper stepped up in a big way. The senior caught 11 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. He was Klein’s favorite target, and responded by playing one of his better games. You could tell he wanted to win. He fought for yards after catch and made tough grabs when he was covered.
He’s used mainly as a down-field blocker, but the receiver was more involved in the offense Saturday. He caught two passes for 19 yards, including his first touchdown.
I doubt Doerr expected to punt five times against Baylor. He has hardly been used against stronger competition. But he came through when his team needed him. He averaged 47.2 yards per punt and pinned Baylor at its own 1 in the third quarter.
A few that were bad:
Baylor knew who to challenge in K-State’s secondary. With starting safety Ty Zimmerman on crutches, the Bears went right at Barnett and had success. He got burned on two touchdown passes, and was caught out of position throughout the first half. He also had a bad unnecessary roughness penalty against Florence. He got better as the game went along, and Bill Snyder thought he showed significant improvement in the second half and finished with 14 tackles. He will continue to get better, but he stepped into a tough situation Saturday. It was his first start, and he wasn’t ready.
K-State’s backup running back rushed for three yards and was a liability in the passing game, dropping passes and failing to make effective blocks.
This makes three straight rough outings for the offensive line. They are officially in a slump. K-State is no longer rushing the ball for big yardage or protecting Klein. Until they start playing better, it will be hard for the offense to score the way it did early.
He may have lost the Heisman Trophy in Waco. He still has a game against Texas to make up ground, but he is no longer the favorite. A lot of his mistakes came from playing from behind, and he admitted he had to take chances he wouldn’t normally take. But Klein threw three interceptions, couldn’t score from a yard away at the goal line and couldn’t scramble out of trouble the way he usually does.
Key play you may have overlooked
Up 35-24 in the third quarter, Baylor faced a fourth-and-three at midfield. Few teams would go for it in that situation, and there was confusion about what to do on the Bears’ sideline. But after much debate, they picked up a first down with a straightforward run. That play was a good example of K-State’s defensive struggles.
K-State coaches had their players mentally prepared to play, but Baylor’s coaching staff had a much better strategy. Phil Bennett’s defense looked totally different than normal, and Baylor’s offense was clicking. The Wildcats didn’t know how to respond to either, and had no clue how to fight from behind.
Baylor rushed for 342 yards while K-State rushed for 76.
Quote to note
“We are going to be tremendously disappointed, and the sooner the better that will turn into anger and then it will be time to put this behind us. We still have some opportunities to do some special things.” – Bill Snyder