Daniel Sams made play after play Saturday, but unfortunately for Kansas State, the game came down to just one — another fourth-quarter interception thrown by the sophomore quarterback to seal a 35-25 loss to the 15th-ranked Baylor Bears at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Sams rushed for a career-high 199 yards and three touchdowns, as the Wildcats’ losing skid was extended to three straight games. It was the second-best rushing performance by a K-State quarterback in school history.
K-State took over with a chance to win the game — down three with 4:28 to play — after forcing the Bears to a three-and-out. Sams rushed for 8 yards on first down, but on second-and-2, rolled to his right and floated a pass toward the sideline where it was picked off by Ahmad Dixon at K-State’s 39-yard line — giving Sams three fourth-quarter interceptions in the last two weeks.
Baylor (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) took advantage of the interception and scored five plays later on a 21-yard touchdown run by Glasco Martin to make it a 10-point game with 2:32 remaining.
“Here is a guy who is trying to make a play and that’s what he does — he makes plays — and again it goes back to the discipline of making the right decisions and the right times,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “I have never faulted his effort. I could never fault his effort, but he has to make appropriate decisions.”
The Wildcats (2-4, 0-3), who now have a bye next week, were masterful on defense — holding the Bears to 451 yards of total offense — 35 points and 330 yards below their average. However, Baylor still got loose for big plays, including three passing touchdowns of 93, 72 and 54 yards, two of which came in the first half. The 93-yard pass from Bryce Petty to Tevin Reese — who had five catches for 184 yards and two of the long scores — was the second-longest touchdown pass in Baylor history.
“Baylor was a big-play offense and you can’t afford to give up big plays,” Snyder said. “If you take away their big plays, it’s a different ballgame.”
K-State only turned the ball over the one time and cut its penalties down from 12 last week to just four on Saturday. Yet several costly mistakes doomed the Wildcats all the same — a first-quarter hit out-of-bounds by Randall Evans on third down to extend an eventual Baylor TD drive, a holding penalty late in the fourth quarter on second-and-2 that killed a drive and led to a missed 41-yard field goal, and then Sams’ interception. There was also a failed fourth-and-1 attempt from the Bears’ 9-yard line in the first quarter.
“We only turned it over once, which was an improvement, but it came at a bad time, quite obviously,” Snyder said. “In the first half of the ballgame, we had four mistakes — the late hit out-of-bounds, which showed a lack of discipline, and then we let somebody just run by you three different times.”
Though K-State center B.J. Finney said improvement was made this week, every mistake is huge for this team right now.
“Even just a small step by an inch, it all adds up,” he said. “Those just changed a possession or two, or killed drives, which is huge. Every little mistake adds up.”
The Wildcats, who had 445 yards of total offense — including 327 on the ground — trailed 21-10 at halftime. But after three unanswered scores to open the second half, K-State had its first and only lead of the game going into the fourth quarter.
Jack Cantele made a 32-yard field goal after a stalled drive in the red zone to pull the Cats within eight at 21-13. K-State then held the Bears to a three-and-out on the ensuing possession and blocked the punt to create prime field position at the Bears’ 19-yard line. John Hubert rushed for 17 yards on first down and then Sams capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. K-State missed a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game at 21.
K-State wasn’t done, though, as defensive end Ryan Mueller got the ball right back after chasing the Baylor QB down, swatting the ball free and then recovering the fumble himself at the Bears’ 44. Mueller finished with seven tackles and two sacks.
Staying on the ground, the Wildcats rushed five straight times to get the ball to the 24. Jake Waters then completed a 6-yard pass to tight end Andre McDonald to pick up a first down at the 12. Hubert rushed for 5, followed by a holding penalty that made it second-and-15 from the 14. Sams then ran the ball for 3 yards before rifling a 12-yard pass to Torell Miller that set up first down at the Bears’ 2. Sams was in the end zone one play later for his third score of the day — giving K-State a 25-21 lead with 45 seconds to play in the third quarter.
It was short-lived, though, as Baylor answered right back, needing only five plays to go 71 yards and regain the lead at 28-25 on a 54-yard TD pass to Reese just 30 seconds into the final quarter.
Baylor won on the road for the first time in the Big 12 since 2011 when it beat Kansas. It was the first win for the Bears in Manhattan — they lost 36-35 in 2011.
“We knew that it would be a tough environment today,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “We came up here two years ago in the same situation and didn’t get away with a win. We came up here today, faced a lot of adversity, and we got a tough win on the road.”