Devin Anctil was surrounded by his teammates when he returned to the sideline during the second quarter of Kansas State’s 31-12 loss to Baylor on Saturday.
“They are always swarming me every time I have a good punt,” Anctil said.
This one, even for Anctil, was special, as he legged it 55 yards to the Baylor 2-yard line.
“That was an awesome moment,” Anctil, a senior, said. “I was just trying to drive it as low as I could so I could get as much distance as possible from it. I was feeling a huge adrenaline rush after that and thought it was a really big moment. I thought we were maybe going to get a safety, but just missed it.”
“Just missed it” transitioned into a 98-yard statement drive for the Bears that resulted in a lead-taking touchdown. The Kansas State defense gave up a 33-yard run to Bears running back JaMycal Hasty and a 29-yard touchdown pass to Tyquan Thornton on the drive.
“We can’t allow that to happen as a defense,” Kansas State senior defensive tackle Jordan Mittie said. “I think they probably had three explosive plays on that drive. That probably comes down to tackling, and what we’ve talked about. But we can’t ever allow that to happen.”
Though Wildcats head coach Chris Klieman said the 98-yard drive was the biggest mishap, it developed into a theme.
Baylor responded after another Anctil punt in the third quarter. That kick went 49 yards to the Baylor 9-yard line. It took the Bears only six plays to cover those 91 yards.
“As a punter, you just have to hope your defense can do good right there, but they weren’t able to get it done,” Anctil said. “But I know in the future, I think we should be able to do that. As long as I keep doing what I am doing, I think we will have a good chance to get some safeties.”
Anctil had another terrific punt in the second quarter that would’ve gone for 40 yards — basically landing in the exact same spot as his 55-yard punt — and putting Baylor just 2 yards from its own end zone again. Anctil had to re-kick because Samuel Wheeler was called for an illegal touching penalty.
“That’s a big part of my game is accuracy, along with power,” Anctil said. “Once that happened, it was just a stupid penalty. Our guy got blocked out of bounds and came back inbounds and the referee said (it was a flag), but that’s not a penalty.”
Anctil’s second kick went 26 yards before sailing out of bounds to the Baylor 21-yard-line.
The Wildcats’ punter said he was feeling as sharp as ever. His work during the offseason was done in preparation for games like Saturday. It was discouraging, he said, not to see all his kicks pay off.
“A lot of my punts, I was thinking, ‘Our defense is in good spots. We will be able to get a good stop here,’” Anctil said, “but it just didn’t happen today. I know we will go back and figure out what we can do.”
The defense was frustrated with its inability to capitalize on excellent special teams, too, Mittie said. One area Klieman repeatedly discussed in his postgame press conference was how the Wildcats need to tackle better and become more accountable.
Anctil was impressed with what he saw from sophomore defensive end Wyatt Hubert, who stood up in the locker room and accepted his share of the blame following the loss.
“Everyone is trying to take ownership,” Anctil said. “We had a good talk about that after the game. Wyatt got up and rounded up the whole team and said, ‘Hey, everybody has got to take ownership. When Coach (Klieman) tells you to do something, do something. The coaches are going to take ownership, too.’”