MANHATTAN — Daniel Sams rushed for 199 yards against Baylor on Saturday. The Bears were up a tree when it came to figuring out a way to stop Kansas States part-time quarterback, who made defenders whiff and curse all day long.
It looked like K-State might be able to jump on board the Sams Ground Express and knock off 15th-ranked Baylor.
Until, that is, Sams went airborne with about four minutes to play and the Cats trailing by three points. On a second-and-2 play from the K-State 28, Bill Snyder and his coaches called a pass play. And Sams, who rushed for more than 50 yards more than Collin Klein ever did in a game, threw an interception.
A terrible, deflating, gut-wrenching interception after rolling to his right and trying to hit tight end Zach Trujillo. But Baylor defender Ahmad Dixon stepped in front of Trujillo and got the ball secured and his feet down inbounds. The Bears took over at the K-State 39 and marched in for the deciding touchdown and a 10-point lead.
Sams is electric. But six weeks into the season, hes still splitting time with junior-college transfer Jake Waters. Thats not a knock on Waters, a fine quarterback himself.
But Waters is no Sams. And while Sams makes mistakes, its really tough when his coaches make them for him. And throwing on second-and-2 after an eight-yard rush was a bonehead decision.
Even Snyder admitted so, with a caveat.
Unless we complete the pass, he said.
Sams is gaining a reputation an unfair one as a quarterback who should never be allowed to cock his arm. He was intercepted three times last week at Oklahoma State. But Sams had completed 18 of 25 attempts going into Saturdays game, when he was 4 of 7. Clearly, though, Snyder doesnt trust him to pass except, apparently, on one of the most crucial plays of the game.
Passing is more Waters responsibility in this two-QB system, although it was Sams playing when it mattered most. The Wildcats trailed by three, had plenty of time and Sams had been gashing the Bears all day.
K-State played well enough defensively with four clear exceptions to win. Baylor came to town averaging 278 points, or something like that. But 219 of its 451 total yards Saturday came on three long passing touchdowns of 93, 72 and 54 yards. Baylors first touchdown was set up by a 15-yard personal foul on K-State defensive back Randall Evans, who hit Bears quarterback Bryce Petty as he was out of bounds after coming nowhere close to picking up the necessary first-down yardage on third-and-11 from the K-State 29.
K-State did a nice job holding down Baylors running game. And Petty threw for only 123 yards on 19 pass attempts, if you take away the three bombs.
But it doesnt work that way. Blow coverage against the Bears, whose receivers could form a 400-meter relay team, and youre in trouble.
Back to Sams.
He had to leave the game and trot to the locker room at one point because, well, thats what a bunch of rushes bring about. He was being extra careful with his right arm, but soon returned to his dazzling ways.
I know Waters has a better, more accurate arm. And I know Waters is a decent runner himself.
But everything is more energized when Sams is on the field: His teammates, the fans, the Wolf Creek nuclear power plant. I still dont understand Snyders reluctance to have a healthy Sams on the field for every play. And it was obvious that the only chance K-State had to move in for a game-tying field goal or game-winning touchdown was with Sams doing what Sams does.
Run. Not pass. It was working all day.
K-State, winless in three Big 12 games and 2-4 overall, can still salvage this strange season. Look at the remaining six Wildcats opponents and tell me which one K-State cant beat.
Oklahoma? Did you see the Sooners against Texas on Saturday?
But before OU, K-State has home games with West Virginia and Iowa State, followed by a road game at Texas Tech. The Wildcats then play the Sooners before finishing up at Kansas.
The schedule looks like the cure for what is ailing K-State, but no matter what happens over the next six weeks, the Wildcats will always feel like they let potential wins against Oklahoma State and Baylor slip away.
Snyder obviously has chosen to develop Sams slowly. That must be why he recruited a junior-college quarterback like Waters. And in some ways, its understandable. Sams is excitable. There are times when he seems to lose track of time and place. I imagine Sams has increased the usage of Tums among K-States offensive coaches.
But when this kid takes off running, its like Evel Knievel staring down the Grand Canyon. Sams nearly became only the second quarterback in K-State history to rush for 200 yards in a game. Klein never did it. Michael Bishop never did. Only Ell Roberson, who rushed for 228 yards in a 2002 game against Nebraska.
Sams has to run. Its what he does, who he is. As his late pass landed in the arms of a Baylor defender, a hush fell over the stadium. But if you listened closely, you could hear the murmur of a confused fan base.