Kansas State looked as if it was about to do the unthinkable on Saturday.
Going into the fourth quarter, the highly-touted Baylor offense had scored just 21 points, well below the Bears’ season average of more than 70 points per game. And 15th-ranked Baylor was nowhere close to the 781.5 yards per game it had averaged this season. The Wildcats were leading 25-21.
But the Bears showed why they’re the nation’s top offense, and a program on the rise, striking through adversity and scoring a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to put the game away, 35-25.
Still, Baylor was held to 451 yards of offense, and just 35 points, a figure the Bears reached in the first quarter of a game against Louisiana-Monroe earlier this season.
Baylor coach Art Briles said they knew a game like this was bound to come, and he wasn’t surprised to see it happen in Manhattan.
“We knew the way the season had gone, it wasn’t going to continue like that,” he said. “You know comparative tempo and everything had gone our way at home, catching everybody at a good time — we knew it would change and we knew it would be a tough environment.”
It was a road test Baylor thought they needed, and it was played in the stadium Briles indicated was one of the toughest he’s coached in.
Two seasons ago, the Bears were armed with Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III and were firing on all cylinders when they came to Manhattan in 2011. But Arthur Brown picked off an RG3 pass late in the fourth quarter to seal a 36-35 K-State win.
Baylor wide receiver Tevin Reese, who caught five passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns, said it was a loss that stuck with them.
“We were up by two and they came back and we lost, we still remember that,” he said. “We weren’t really worried about 2012 when we beat them at home, we still had the memory of when we lost to them here. We had to come back out here with a chip on our shoulder.”
Briles thought the game said something about how far his program has come and what it has the chance to accomplish this season.
“I like the fact that we came up here, faced a lot of adversity and got a win, tough win on the road,” he said. “I think it shows the direction of our program and the character of our student athletes.”
Baylor came into the game with an offense that was averaging 349.2 yards per contest on the ground, and another 432.2 yards in the air.
K-State (2-4, 0-3 Big 12) controlled the game through time of possession, though, and slowed the Bears’ rushing attack. Baylor was held to 109 yards on the ground, while quarterback Bryce Petty passed for 342.
Potential Heisman candidate Lache Seastrunk was held to 57 yards on 12 carries. He came into the game averaging 11.1 yards per carry.
Petty thought K-State did a good job of executing what appeared to be the gameplan, stopping the run.
“The thing about a spread offense is can you make it one-dimensional, and that’s what defensive coaches are trying to do,” he said. “Coach (Bill) Snyder does a great job with what he does. They had a game plan going in to it, and I thought they did a really good job with it.”
With K-State able to slow down the rushing attack, Baylor’s offense was unable to run at the high-caliber tempo that had seen it score at least 28 points in the first quarter of every game this season.
The Wildcats held the Bears to one touchdown in the first quarter, and stretched it out with their own offensive attack to keep Baylor off the board.
Briles said K-State played well defensively to keep Baylor from doing everything it wanted to.
“A lot of our game is predicated by tempo and how we move it,” he said. “We just never were really able to get into a good rhythm, because they kept us out of it.”
Baylor (5-0, 2-0) was able to change the game in an instant with big plays. With the game tied at seven, Petty hit Reese for a 93-yard touchdown. The Bears extended their lead to 21-10 with a 72-yard pass to Antwan Goodley and took the lead in the fourth quarter with a 54-yard pass to Reese.
“When we hit those big pass plays, really I think it was all the receivers,” Petty said. “They ran great routes and really all I had to do was just put it out there.”
After the Bears intercepted Daniel Sams late in the fourth quarter, Baylor put the game away with a 21-yard touchdown run by Glasco Martin. Martin gained 39 of the Bears’ 109 yards on that drive alone.
Seeing the Bears’ seemingly unstoppable offensive momentum get slowed to a near halt was something that seemed to humble Briles, who credited Snyder for finding ways to make it tough on his team.
“There’s good-coached football teams and there’s great-coached football teams, and I think Kansas State, Bill Snyder and his staff, makes other coaches as myself think I’ve got a lot of work to do, I’ve got a long way to go to get where I need to be as a coach,” he said. “I thought they played tremendously with a lot of heart, a lot of effort. We have a tremendous amount of respect for them.”