WACO, Texas The game that derailed Kansas State’s dream season won’t be remembered for a signature play or a memorable finish. Baylor’s 52-24 victory over the Wildcats was too thorough for that.
When college football fans think back to this game they will recall a Baylor offense that did whatever it wanted against an injured Wildcats defense, three interceptions from Collin Klein and a throng of uncharacteristic mistakes rarely seen from Bill Snyder-coached teams.
The Wildcats, who came to Baylor on top of the BCS standings and in control of their own destiny in the national championship race, played their worst game of the season at the worst possible time.
Just like that, at least some of their dreams were dashed.
“This one stings, and it should,” said Klein, who threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns. “We weren’t able to do what we wanted to do.”
The Wildcats didn’t come close on defense. K-State could do little to stop the Bears’ high-powered offense, allowing Baylor running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin to run wild for a combined total of nearly 300 yards and four touchdowns while quarterback Nick Florence took chances deep and threw for 238 yards and two touchdowns.
That put considerable pressure on the Wildcats’ offense. Behind their senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy contender, that normally isn’t a problem. But Klein couldn’t lead his team back from a multi-score deficit and the Wildcats suffered their first loss of the year.
“They got out pretty quick and we were playing from behind for most of the game,” tight end Travis Tannahill said. “That’s really not our thing.… We are a team that likes to run the ball. Obviously, we weren’t able to do that.”
K-State rushed for 106 yards, but Klein spent most of his time throwing out of the pocket in the second half. Baylor’s defense was prepared for it, and took advantage. He was considered the Heisman favorite coming into the game, but has considerable ground to make up now that K-State isn’t undefeated.
“Down the stretch we had to force some things,” Klein said. “Still, it was unacceptable. We just didn’t get it done.”
It was a frustrating end to a remarkable 10-game winning streak. K-State (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) was in position to play for its first national championship and could have clinched a share of its first conference championship since 2003. It can still earn a league title by beating Texas in the season-finale, but K-State will need all kinds of help to reach the BCS championship game.
Baylor gained 580 yards of offense against a K-State defense that was without injured starting safety Ty Zimmerman, who watched the game from the sidelines on crutches while his replacement — freshman Dante Barnett — struggled.
The Bears went right at him early and Tevin Reese beat him for a 38-yard touchdown pass to give Baylor a 7-0 lead. Then Baylor’s running backs got going and the Bears took a 28-7 lead with 2:54 remaining in the second quarter.
As the game went on, the injuries mounted. Tre Walker was already out with an injury, but linebacker Jarell Childs and defensive ends Meshak Williams and Adam Davis both missed portions of the game with small injuries.
Combined with several penalties that gave Baylor (5-5, 2-5) second chances, the Wildcats were fighting an uphill battle all night. Baylor ran the ball straight up the middle, and continually pushed K-State defenders off the line of scrimmage. With a big lead, that made it hard for the Wildcats to come back.
“They took the fight to us,” Snyder said. “I thought we weren’t well enough prepared for it. We struggled on both sides of the ball and I think we were just not prepared. I take full control on that.”
K-State managed to close within 28-17 when Klein engineered back-to-back scoring drives at the end of the second quarter, and things looked good for the Wildcats. Chris Harper, who had 123 receiving yards, caught a seven-yard touchdown pass and Anthony Cantele kicked a field goal to pull within 11, and they were getting the opening kickoff of the second half.
But Klein threw an interception on the next drive and Baylor went ahead 35-17 on a short run from Martin.
The Wildcats answered back with a touchdown when Randall Evans intercepted a pass a yard shy of the end zone and Klein scored on a quarterback sneak with 12:25 to go in the third quarter. But K-State couldn’t get any closer than 35-24.
Baylor took control from there, and clinched the game on an 80-yard touchdown run from Seastrunk.
“We just didn’t make the plays we needed to at the times we needed to and it caught us,” Klein said. “We just didn’t get it done … There is loss. There is pain … It’s going to test our mettle and see what kind of team we are and what kind of family we are and how we come together moving forward.”