K-State bracing for juggernaut Baylor

By Joel Jellison

When Baylor opened its season by piling up 69 points on Wofford, no one batted an eye. But after that, they just kept scoring more, and gaining even more yards.

Against Buffalo and Louisiana-Monroe, the Bears set school records with 70 points and 781 yards of offense, in both games. And last week against West Virginia, they broke all those records with 73 points and 864 yards of offense against the Mountaineers.

As Kansas State hosts the Bears on Saturday, it might be looking more at slowing the Bears down, rather than trying to stop them.

“You just have to do the things that you do the best and try to figure out what they do the best, and what is the best way within our system to be able to slow it down or stop it, one of the two,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “I don’t mean to make it sound easy. What are they getting, 1,000 yards a game or something like that? Obviously it is not easy no matter who you line up and play against.”

The Bears have piled up the points this season by scoring early and often. In four games, they’ve scored at least 28 points in the first quarter, and twice they’ve added another 28 in the second quarter. Baylor is outscoring opponents 119-20 in the first quarter alone.

The Bears are scary efficient with 19 plays of 40 or more yards and four of more than 70.

K-State defensive back Dante Barnett said it’s not surprising to see the Bears putting up a lot of points.

“They put up numbers like this every year,” he said. “Baylor has always had a high-tempo offense like this every year.”

But the question to ask, from the Wildcats’ perspective, is how can anyone compete with that?

“Score more points, but that is true no matter who you play,” Snyder said. “Some people talk about goals and a major goal that we have outside of our 16 goals is for our offense to score more points than the opponents’ offense and for our defense to hold the opponent to less points than our offense scores. I know that is rather simplistic, but at the end of the day that’s the statistic on the board that makes a difference.”

The Baylor offense is far from one-dimensional, featuring both a running back and a quarterback who could be high on awards lists at season’s end. Running back Lache Seastrunk has 589 yards and eight touchdowns, and is averaging an astronomical 11.1 yards per carry. His backup Shock Linwood had 318 yards, five touchdowns and is going for 7.6 yards per carry. In four games, the Bears have already scored 22 rushing touchdowns.

At quarterback, Bryce Petty has thrown for 1,348 yards and 10 touchdowns, with just one interception. Petty has also run for three touchdowns.

Seven wide receivers have at least 100 yards this season, two have more than 400 yards and six have caught touchdown passes.

While the Wildcats have played a few high-caliber offenses over the past two seasons, defensive end Marquel Bryant said Baylor is its own animal.

“Baylor is Baylor, I can’t really say they compare to anyone,” he said. “One thing about Baylor I do like is they use everyone in their offense, they go to all their receivers, they use their running backs, they use everybody.”

The Bears’ offense is balanced as can be, but they do lean on the run quite a bit, with 80 more rushing plays than pass plays. While the rushing offense does start with Seastrunk, five different running backs have gotten a number of carries in the ground game.

Bryant said the focus this week will be to stop the run game and make force the Bears to have to make plays.

Snyder said when the run doesn’t work, the Bears’ balance allows them to go to the next option. Baylor has found many ways to turn big plays this season.

“I think the balance that they have within their offense is really what allows them to do so many things so well,” Snyder said. “I say so many things, but it’s not that they have a plethora, they are somewhat basic. They have played four games, and they have had 55 plays that have gone for 25-plus yards.

“Now as I have said, five of those have been on the defensive side of the ball and one was in the kicking game, but there is a substantial number somewhere in the vicinity of 12 or so offensive plays each week that are 25 or more yards. They had 11 against West Virginia, and West Virginia is not that bad of a football team.”

The way to stop Baylor might be to take the ball out their hands. Although the Wildcats lost at Oklahoma State, they controlled the game by limiting the number of possessions the Cowboys fast-paced offense could have.

Wide receiver Kyle Klein said that’s exactly what they intend to do this weekend too. And that’s where the K-State offense, might be able to assist the defense.

“One thing we try to do is keep the ball out of their hands because if their offense isn’t on the field, they can’t score,” he said. “We want to control the ball, but we want to do that every game, so I don’t know if it’s any different with Baylor. They don’t make a whole lot of mistakes and they put the pressure on you to beat them. That’s what makes them good.

“And an offense doesn’t score 70 points a game if their defense doesn’t get them the ball quickly.”

The longer offensive possession by K-State last week helped the defense stay as fresh as it has maybe all season. And with that, the defense appeared to improve throughout the game. Despite giving up a 6-play scoring drive for the go-ahead touchdown, the defense held Oklahoma State to a field goal on two different drives inside the K-State 20.

K-State safety Ty Zimmerman said the defense is more confident and feels like it’s better going into this week.

“Our energy was up,” he said. “We had our backs against the wall a few of those times and came out with field goals. Still, we could have created more turnovers and we had a couple deep balls get over the top of us.

“We still have room for improvement, but we got better this week.”

Although the challenge ahead of the Wildcats will be vast, linebacker Mike Moore says the goal for the defense will be the same as always.

“We want to hold them to zero, that’s the goal for all defenses,” he said.

And when asked if that’s possible, Moore simply smiles.

“We’ve got to play the game.”

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