It’s a rare occurrence when Baylor plays a game in a stadium named after the man standing on the sideline coaching the team.
But that’s exactly what the Bears will face when they walk into Bill Snyder Family Stadium for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. kickoff in Manhattan, Kan.
Snyder is the architect of one of the greatest revivals in college football history as he took one of the worst programs in the sport and turned it into a consistent winner with 204 wins in his 25 years. He became just the fourth active coach to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
Off to a 2-1 start this season, the Wildcats are looking for their eighth straight bowl appearance.
“We’re going to compete against each other, but really at the end of the day, having a chance to compete against Coach Snyder makes me better, and makes me look at myself and how I do what I do,” said Baylor coach Matt Rhule. “I think the way he runs his program is exactly the way I want to run this program. Doing things the right way on and off the field, and the way they play. It’ll be an honor to be out there with him, and I look forward to shaking his hand before and after the game.”
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Of course, Rhule hopes to shake hands with Snyder after a Baylor win. That will be monumental task since Bill Snyder Family Stadium is one of the toughest places to play in the Big 12 because it’s always packed and the stands are close to the field.
But Baylor has proven that it can be done as it pulled off a 35-25 win in the first Big 12 championship season in 2013 and came through with a 31-24 win in 2015 behind a great performance by former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
Though the Bears are off to an 0-4 start, they’re coming to Kansas State with considerable confidence following an emotional performance in a 49-41 Big 12 opening loss to No. 3 Oklahoma last week at McLane Stadium.
“Kansas State is a really disciplined football team, a really physical football team,” said Baylor cornerback Blake Lynch. “But I think as long as we do what we’re supposed to do we’ll be fine. I honestly think we feel like we can go out and beat anybody that we play as long as we stick to the game plan.”
One of Baylor’s biggest challenges will be containing Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz who has passed for 587 yards and four touchdowns and also leads the Wildcats with 237 yards rushing and two scores.
Ertz is a tough, physical quarterback in the mold of former Heisman Trophy candidate Collin Klein, and has shown his leadership skills over the past two seasons.
“Jesse is a young guy who gets into his preparation, he wants to do as well as he possibly can,” Snyder said. “He’s a hard worker off the field and is good at studying film. He’s got a lot on his plate and tries to make sure he does the right things. Overall we’ve seen him make some headway throwing the ball, and obviously can run the ball well. He’s a bright young guy and his dedication and pays off.”
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Containing the run will be a big key for Baylor’s defense after allowing 342 yards on the ground against the Sooners. One of the Bears’ major goals is to limit big plays after watching Abdul Adams break loose for a 99-yard touchdown run and Mayfield hit touchdown passes of 52 and 48 yards.
Offensively, the Bears hope to produce a stronger running game after picking up just 60 yards on 35 carries against the Sooners. Playing his first game of the season following offseason shoulder surgery, Terence Williams was limited to 26 yards on 11 carries.
“It kind of became a passing game which really isn’t where we want to utilize Terence, and we’re hopeful that we can run the football and kind of get him going this week,” Rhule said. “I thought it was a good first step, an introduction back into playing, and now hopefully we can amplify his carries and his production this week.”
Baylor quarterback Zach Smith hopes to build off last week’s performance when he hit 33 of 50 for a career-high 463 yards and four touchdowns. Since Chris Platt is out with a knee injury, Baylor is looking for sophomore receiver Denzel Mims to deliver another big game after setting career highs with 11 catches for 192 yards and three touchdowns against the Sooners.
The Bears will face a Kansas State defense that has been the stingiest in the Big 12 by allowing 286.3 yards and 13.3 points per game.
“I thought Zach was fantastic, courageous, and he was he out there playing and trusting his receivers,” Rhule said. “He made big-time throws that a lot of guys can’t make. He wasn’t careless with the football and was methodical in the way he did some things.”
Despite a tremendous performance against the Sooners, Rhule was glad that his team was still upset that it lost. The Bears won’t be satisfied until they break through with their first win.
“It’s a loss, and we’re winners, so we don’t look at how well we played,” said Baylor cornerback Grayland Arnold. “All we think about is the process and the brand and just keep getting better every day. We took that loss and we’ve got to move forward, got to keep trying to get better every day.”
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Baylor junior defensive end Xavier Jones could miss the rest of the season after breaking a bone in his leg in Saturday’s 49-41 loss to Oklahoma.