After a two-week hiatus, we get a game that doesn't lie at the extremes of well-played (KU) or utter disaster (NU). It will be nice to go through the usual format and give some thoughts on the game, even though I was only able to listen on the radio.
First of all, one thing everyone needs to rid themselves is the stigma of "losing to Baylor." Four years ago, when Ron Prince's first team went to Waco and lost, that was a legitimate stigma, because Baylor was still, well, Baylor. When a team has been the joke of the conference since it was formed, it's difficult to shake the perception that they remain the doormat. Clearly, with Robert Griffin III and Art Briles, that's no longer the case with the Bears. Interestingly, Briles has brought over the "all offense, no defense" trait I saw so much of at Houston when I was down there. Still, he has installed a very good offense and now has at least some of the personnel to execute it.
Anyway, don't be depressed about losing this game simply because of the name on the opponents' jerseys. After four games, the Bears lead the South at 3-1. Now granted, they got just about as easy of a draw as you could get out of the North without drawing Iowa State, and they still have to play all their South opponents save Texas Tech (to whom they lost). Still, it's entirely possible that they beat both UT and Texas A&M, not to mention Oklahoma State (a game in which new records for offensive production will undoubtedly be set). I doubt they can beat Oklahoma, but it's entirely possible that they will get to five or six conference wins and be a factor in the race for the South division title.
More thoughts on the game itself after the jump.
What I liked...
...getting the ground game going again. It wasn't the dominating performance that I would have liked to see, but Daniel Thomas picked up 113 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns. Although we only had 109 official rushing yards, the total was more like 130 before sacks were subtracted (I hate that sack yardage counts against your rushing total). It would have helped to pound the rock more, but the early deficit dictated that we throw the ball more.
...surviving despite airing it out. We've said all year that if Carson Coffman has to throw it more than 15 or 20 times, K-State probably isn't going to win. He threw it 29 times on Saturday, and we didn't win, but the reason we lost was not because of his passing. At 20 completions in 29 attempts for 231 yards and one interception, Coffman was effective moving the offense down the field through the air. Credit to Aubrey Quarles for having a big game, and to Chris Harper for emerging as a threat. We are all praying that Tramaine Thompson isn't hurt as bad as Wyatt Thompson seemed to describe, but I'm not optimistic on that front. Good job also by Cole Bachamp for getting into the action after Thompson's injury.
...WeePo going to the house. All year, William Powell has been that close to taking a kick return to the house. On Saturday, he did, and at the exact right time, as Baylor had just taken a 34-21 lead and it looked like the game was about to get out of hand.
...the team fighting until the final gun. Just seven seconds into the fourth quarter, Baylor punched in a touchdown to take a 47-28 lead. At that point, I had written the game off, and judging from the comment thread, most (if not all) of you had, too. In fact, BOTC got unfollowed on Twitter by someone who thought my comments were too negative. At that point, it looked like we were on our way to giving up 700+ yards and maybe as much at 60 points to the Bears. But lo and behold, that was Baylor's final score of the afternoon/evening, and our offense put up two more scores to narrow the gap to five. Had the onside kick been recovered, Coffman would have had one heave to the end zone for a desperate attempt to win the game.
What I didn't like...
...everything about the defense. Whether it's personnel or coaching, or some combination of both, we are utterly incompetent against spread offenses. It didn't matter whether Baylor was running (279 total yards) or throwing (404 total yards), everything worked on Saturday. Given the nature of the offenses against which we've struggled, I'm inclined to believe that a lot of the problem is personnel. We simply don't have the athletes to match up in the one-on-one situations that spread offenses create. There isn't much speed at linebacker, either, and we knew we weren't going to generate much pass rush with our front four this year. All that is a recipe for disaster against the spread, and it can't be remedied by anything other than recruiting good athletes on that side of the ball. That said, as was mentioned in the game threads on Saturday, the personnel of this defense isn't that much different from what was on the field last year, and those defenses were much better than this one. Further, it's not like we just had one (really) bad game here; we really haven't shown the ability to stop much of anything this season.
What it means and where we're going...
Once again, I'm not freaking out too much over this loss. With games against Oklahoma State and Missouri ahead, we'll still be facing some potent offenses, but only OSU did we really think we had a chance at beating before the season. Again, barring an unforeseen disaster, this team is going bowling this year. Only one more win is needed for eligibility, and North Texas still looks like an unmitigated disaster of a football program. Further, Colorado looks like it may be headed for the tank, and Texas just lost at home to Iowa State. The Longhorns have to be close to mailing in the season.
As for next week, I have this strange feeling that we can keep pace with Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are good on offense, but they're not better than Baylor, and we managed to keep pace with them (at least points-wise). With a few good breaks, it's still possible, though exceedingly unlikely, that we sneak out a win in Manhattan.
One final point I wanted to make before we move on to the Opponent Roundup and Big 12 roundup. I've noticed over the three years that I've been running a blog that I have a tendency to overreact to every game, win or lose. After wins, my outlook gets rosier than it should; after losses, the opposite. I've been trying not to do that this year. If you look at these first seven games and what our expectations were coming into the season, just about anybody would have taken 5-2. We might have hoped that the defense would look better, or that DT wouldn't have several tough games, and we wish we wouldn't have gotten blown out by Nebraska, but the overall result is certainly acceptable. It's hard to keep thinking "forest" when you're in the middle of all the trees, but I'm trying to do better.
UCLA got run out of Autzen Stadium on Saturday in a 60-13 loss to Oregon. That's not necessarily the end of the world, because Oregon is doing that to everyone this year. But the Bruins are now 3-4 overall, and 1-3 in the Pac-10. If this is still considered a quality win, the it's only barely in that category.
Nobody cares about what Missouri State did.
Iowa State knocked off Texas in Austin, which will be discussed further below.
Central Florida blew out Rice, 41-14, and is now 5-2 overall and 3-0 in C-USA play. It wasn't pretty, but that's still a good win.
Nebraska won a shootout in Stillwater, discussed below.
KU sucks and lost to Texas A&M, 45-10.
Big 12 Roundup
Iowa State 28, Texas 21
What happened? Somehow, Texas went from knocking off top-10 Nebraska one week to losing at home to an Iowa State team that got murdered by Utah and Oklahoma two weeks in a row. The Longhorns looked like they were too good to be bothered with playing ISU, an attitude that conceivably could have been absorbed from some of their fans (specifically, the few thousand who didn't bother to show up). That's not a knock on Iowa State, who showed up ready to play and took it to UT. The Clones now have a fighting chance at a bowl berth, whereas UT's slim hopes at winning the South are done. They better regroup fast, because Baylor arrives in Austin on Saturday. Somehow, UT is at least a touchdown favorite, which is a very tempting bet for me.
Texas Tech 27, Colorado 24
Even though I shouldn't, I found this result somewhat surprising. Texas Tech appeared to be reeling, with losses to Iowa State and Oklahoma State and a narrow, mistake-filled win over Baylor in prior weeks. Of course, we should never underestimate the ability of Dan Hawkins' Buffaloes to screw up a good thing. In addition, CU starting quarterback Tyler Hanson was injured in this game and is out for the year. My expectations for K-State's trip to Boulder improved dramatically with that news, as Cody Hawkins is the antithesis of the type of QB who gives K-State's defense trouble.
Nebraska 51, Oklahoma State 41
It was the unstoppable ground attack against the irresistable aerial attack, and Nebraska's ground game won out. In the process, Taylor Martinez showed off his arm, finding the going much easier against OSU's defense than UT's. With the loss, OSU drops below Baylor in the South, and is tied with OU at 2-1. Those three teams should battle it out until the last weekend for an appearance in the last Big 12 championship game. Meanwhile, Nebraska kept its North hopes alive despite Missouri's victory over Oklahoma, and set up a showdown in Lincoln which, for all intents and purposes, is for the North title.
Texas A&M 45, KU 10
KU sucks. That's about all you need to know.
Missouri 36, Oklahoma 27
What was surprising about this one wasn't so much that Mizzou won, but that they played toe-to-toe with OU the whole way and looked like the better team. After the opening-kickoff touchdown for Mizzou, I thought it might be one of those games where a "weaker" (that being a relative term, as Mizzou was obviously pretty good coming into the game) home team rode an early wave of emotion to a big lead and then played keepaway the rest of the game. Not so, as Oklahoma came right back and even took a lead into the fourth quarter. The scariest realization is that Mizzou really does have a defense now. While the Tigers offense isn't as explosive as it has been in years past, it's still more than a handful, and the defense's improvement makes Mizzou a threat to anyone. They actually match up fairly well with Nebraska, and could put a chokehold on the North division with a win in Lincoln. Win that game, and the talk will turn to whether they can get over the "Big 12 Championship Game" hurdle, a hurdle that would put them into the national title game barring an unforeseen slipup against inferior competition after the Nebraska game.