Bob Lutz: Baylor another test for K-State

10/01/2011 12:00 AM

08/05/2014 4:21 PM

If we didn't have last year's game to go on, today's Baylor-Kansas State Big 12 game in Manhattan might not have much intrigue.

You remember that crisp autumn day in Waco: Baylor 47, Kansas State 42. The teams combined for 1,087 yards of offense. The offensive stars were too many to mention. The defensive stars were non-existent.

Now jump ahead nearly a year. The Baylor offense looks like it could jump up for another 683-yard game in Manhattan today, except the Wildcats believe they have a much better defense. And so far the numbers have supported that.

K-State has left the 5-2 defensive disaster of 2010. After three games, the Cats' rank No. 6 nationally in total defense.

Is that a ranking with bite? Or is it to be twisted and turned in every which way today by an explosive Baylor offense led by quarterback Robert Griffin?

Seven of the Bears' offensive starters were starters in the 2010 game, including four of five linemen.

Griffin passed for 404 yards and four touchdowns. Receiver Kendall Wright caught six passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns.

One of the biggest Baylor weapons last season, running back Jay Finley, has graduated. He busted up K-State for 250 yards and two touchdowns. At least the Wildcats don't have to worry about him.

Even so, Baylor is still averaging 240.7 rushing yards to go with 353.3 passing yards. Griffin has completed 70 of 82 attempts. That's right, 70 of 82.

That K-State defense, which has allowed 10 yards on 21 plays inside the 20, better be as much better as it appears to be.

As for the K-State offense — so far, so good, even though there are quite a few new parts.

I wasn't sure Collin Klein was the answer at quarterback, but he's making more of a believer of me every week.

I didn't think K-State had a chance to be as effective as it has been without a huge contribution from running back Bryce Brown. But as Brown's status for remaining on the team remains murky, John Hubert has taken over the role.

Klein's physical limitations are obvious. He's a better runner than passer and at times has struggled to get the football to the right places. He doesn't always throw with zip, which can cause problems when he's attempting to get it downfield or to the sideline.

But what Klein has in bulk is a leadership quality. It was evident during the Wildcats' tough 28-24 win over Miami (Fla.) last week that Klein is K-State's offensive voice. Playing with bloodied elbows, beaten and battered throughout, he continued to push his team.

His team.

"That game was a very positive step in the right direction,'' Klein said. "We just need to keep moving forward.''

In a conference full of top-quality quarterbacks, including Griffin, Klein can be overlooked. His passing numbers are just so-so, but he is a big part of K-State's running game as a tough-to-bring-down big guy with good feet.

"Leadership is something that Coach (Bill) Snyder pushes extremely hard,'' Klein said. "It's not a science. If there was a formula for it, someone would be making a lot of money now. It's a pretty fluid deal and one of the deals where I'm constantly trying to learn and grow in that area.''

Klein says he's working to become a more dangerous passer, even though K-State's best bet today is to control the football on the ground and keep it away from the Baylor air circus.

If it's a shootout like last season, though, all hands must be on deck. That means passing, running, kicking — doing whatever it takes to score.

"We take a big-picture approach with our offense,'' Klein said. "We want to be able to make more plays in the passing game. We need to keep growing and not be satisfied with what we've accomplished to this point.''

In 2010, K-State had to score a bunch of points to be able to win because it's defense was so bad. So far in 2011, Klein and the rest of the offense hasn't felt the pressure to score, score, score.

"As an offense, we want to be able to take as much pressure off of our defense as they take off of us,'' Klein said. "We've really been pushing each other in practice. They're getting better each week just like we are.''

This is a confident K-State bunch. But Griffin and Co. are capable of killing confidence without remorse.

About Bob Lutz

Bob Lutz has been The Eagle's sports columnist since 1996. A native of Derby, he has worked for the newspaper since 1974 and covered a variety of beats, from high schools to Wichita State to pro sports. If you want to get in good with him, mention the St. Louis Cardinals. Provided they're winning, of course.

Contact Bob at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com

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