When Baylor pulled off a 52-24 shocker over No. 1 BCS-ranked Kansas State, the tremors rattled across the college football landscape.
Nobody saw the upset coming last November except a group of Baylor players who believed they were on the verge of a breakout performance. The No. 15 Bears still haven’t come down from that high.
Since that historic night at Floyd Casey Stadium, the Bears have won eight straight games, including the first four this season. Baylor hopes to keep the streak alive in Saturday’s rematch against the Wildcats at 2:30 p.m. at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan.
The Bears had lost five of their previous six games before facing Kansas State last season, but they turned their season around with a riveting performance on both sides of the ball.
“We were in dire straits,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “Our backs were inside the wall, not even against it. The Kansas State game got us to that point where we thought, ‘OK, now it’s going to start happening.’ Once it starts, momentum is a good thing to have. Right now we have momentum, and we’ve got to ride it.”
After four straight dominating wins at Floyd Casey Stadium, the Bears will hit the road for the first time this season. Though the Wildcats are 2-3 overall with losses in their first two Big 12 games, the Bears know they will walk into a highly charged environment in Manhattan.
The Bears were on the verge of beating the Wildcats on the road in 2011 when they took a 35-26 lead into the fourth quarter. But with a vocal crowd making it difficult for the Bears to hear themselves, things unraveled in the fourth quarter as the Wildcats scored 10 unanswered points to slip away with a 36-35 win.
“It was a tough game two years ago that they came back and won when we had a good opportunity,” Briles said. “But now we have an opportunity to win another football game. We’re very excited about going to Kansas State. We have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach (Bill) Snyder and his staff, and the way they play the game.”
Snyder will work overtime this week trying to devise a scheme to slow down a Baylor offense that’s put up unimaginable offensive numbers. The Bears lead the nation with 779.5 yards and 70.5 points per game following their Big 12-record 864-yard performance in last weekend’s 73-42 conference-opening win over West Virginia.
“Our biggest challenge will be to keep them under 100,” Snyder said. “I don’t recall anyone being as productive with numbers like Baylor is now. They’re averaging almost 800 yards and 70 points per game, and you’d be hard pressed to find somebody who has done that. I haven’t had time to look in the record book, and I don’t want to because it might frighten me.”
Snyder is concerned about controlling Baylor’s vast array of offensive weapons. Quarterback Bryce Petty leads the nation in passing efficiency after completing 72.8 percent for 1,348 yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception. Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese rank first and second in the league in receiving yardage per game.
Lache Seastrunk is the Big 12’s top rusher with 147.2 yards per game and a phenomenal 11.1-yard average. He was named Big 12 offensive player of the week after rushing for 172 yards on just 15 carries in the romp over West Virginia.
Kansas State will likely try to slow down Baylor’s high-tempo offense with a ball control attack designed to run time off the clock.
“Defensively, we don’t have a great deal of control of their tempo,” Snyder said. “They can go as fast as they want to go, and that’s awfully fast. We have to play well on defense and not give up big plays. We can’t have three-and-out situations like we had last year.”
The Baylor defense will have to prepare for two Kansas State quarterbacks. Junior college transfer Jake Waters has completed 65.4 percent for 959 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions, but sophomore Daniel Sams got most of the snaps in last weekend’s 33-29 loss at Oklahoma State.
Sams hit 15 of 21 for 181 yards and two touchdowns but also threw three interceptions. He led the Wildcats with 118 yards rushing and a touchdown. Former Midway star John Hubert has rushed for 268 yards and four touchdowns this season, but ran just seven times for 30 yards against the Cowboys.
“The thing that has impressed me about Kansas State is that they’ve gotten better as the season has gone along,” Briles said. “Waters has been more the passer and Sams the runner, although he threw 21 times against Oklahoma State. Both are very capable, and I’m sure they have confidence in both of them.”
Though the Bears allowed 42 points against West Virginia, Briles likes the intensity that his defense has shown. The Mountaineers scored 21 points in the fourth quarter against Baylor’s reserves, including an interception return for a touchdown.
“Of course, we were a little disappointed with the points the other night, but we understand what happened,” Briles said. “Our defense has done a tremendous job. Those guys are flying around and playing with a lot of confidence.”