MANHATTAN — The game looked unfair. Kansas State was undefeated and the top-ranked team in the BCS standings. Baylor had lost five of its last six games and appeared on its way to a dismal season. Few, if any, gave Baylor a chance last November.
“We were kind of in a dire-straights situation,” Baylor coach Art Briles says now. “Our back was inside the wall. It wasn’t even against it.”
We all know what happened next.
Baylor raced to a big lead, brought blitzes from every angle and stuffed Collin Klein at the goal line in a season-altering victory. The celebration that followed has since been honored with a larger-than-life mural in the Bears’ football complex — for good reason. Baylor closed out the 2012 season with four straight wins, including a 49-26 domination of UCLA in the Holiday Bowl. It then opened the 2013 season with four straight jaw-dropping victories in which it averaged 70.5 points.
The Bears are now a trendy pick to win the Big 12, are up to No. 15 in the national polls and are owners of a long winning streak. And none of it would be possible without that surprise victory over K-State.
“That was when everyone came together,” Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty said. “We no longer looked at each other as a football team, we became a family. We just needed that one game, where everyone could see what we were capable of. Everything came together after that, and it carried over into this year.”
Eleven months later, the roles are reversed. K-State is the unranked team with a losing record in desperate need of a victory. Baylor is the undefeated team with a high-flying offense. They meet at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium, and few expect the game to be close.
But those who were part of the last meeting in this series understand any outcome is possible.
“We still think about that loss all the time,” K-State safety Dante Barnett said. “That loss really hurt us, but a win now could get us back on track. This win could start our winning streak and get us back going and playing like the team we know we are.”
Added Baylor receiver Tevin Reese: “That game, we felt like we were the biggest underdogs in the world. No one gave us a chance to win. We just said, ‘We are going to play for ourselves. We aren’t going to worry about the media or the fans, we are just going to play our hearts out for each other.’ That’s what we did, and it set the tone for everything we’ve done since.”
K-State could use a similar pick-me-up after a trying few months. Fans opened the season upset about the Wildcats being picked sixth in the Big 12’s preseason poll. Now they are off to their worst start since 2004 and their bowl chances seem dicey.
But players are confident the season can be saved. Many are quick to point out that K-State’s three losses have come by an average of 5.6 points. They have been in every game.
They also received an encouraging pep talk from coach Bill Snyder earlier this week about the hardships K-State endured before rallying to win a Big 12 championship 10 years ago.
“In 2003, we lost our first two (conference) ballgames to the same two teams, Texas and Oklahoma State,” Snyder said. “Both of them were close ballgames. Each one of our ballgames this year have been reasonably close. That team was able to put it all together.
“It’s a matter of being open and honest with them and allowing them to understand they are capable. It’s not that they don’t have capabilities. They’ve proven that to a certain degree, but I’m not sure they realize how capable they are right now.”
With five home games remaining, K-State has the time and schedule to turn things around.
A victory over Baylor would certainly help boost their confidence.
“Coach has been trying to make people realize there is still something worth fighting for here,” K-State center B.J. Finney said. “He is absolutely right. There is something truly special that we can have, even though it is not exactly what we wanted to have. We can still make this season something to remember.”