K-State's defense held Baylor scoreless in the fourth quarter while scoring 10 points of its own to earn a thrilling victory over the Bears.
If I were going to assign grades to the offense, the defense, the special teams, or specific units like the defensive and offensive lines and such, I don't know that anybody would rate much higher than a B. Overall, it was not an especially pretty performance from K-State. But the Wildcats didn't make any spectacular mistakes, executed their game plan and didn't lose confidence when Baylor took a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Hit the jump for some specific items in the game I enjoyed, some I didn't enjoy, what it all means and where we're going.
What I liked...
...dominating the time of possession. K-State controlled the ball for more than 12 minutes in the first quarter, and there wasn't a single quarter in the game in which Baylor won the battle. K-State ran 17 more plays than did Baylor. In other words, K-State kept the ball away from Robert Griffin III and wore down the Baylor defense. It paid off as K-State scored 10 points in the final quarter on a backbreaking, five-minute 22-second touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to pull within two.
...winning the turnover battle. Baylor lost two fumbles, and of course we all know about Griffin's first interception of the season. Collin Klein tossed one horrible interception, but K-State protected the ball with its methodical game plan. Of course, if Klein keeps throwing flutterballs off his back foot, that could change, and he's lucky he didn't throw another interception or two in this game. But the reality is that he didn't, and that's what matters for this game.
...getting pressure on Griffin. K-State had five sacks on the day, with Arthur Brown and Meshak Williams leading the way. With a quarterback as fast as Griffin, that's a huge feather in the defense's cap. Speaking of feathers in the defense's cap...
...another stand by the defense late in the game. After giving up 421 yards to Baylor in the first 56:50 of the game, K-State's defense rose to the occasion and held Baylor without a first down on its final drive of the game.
...Pease in the Wildcat. More please. K-State ran four plays out of the Wildcat with Angelo Pease. Two of those were successful on Bill's scale of what counts as a successful play, and one went for a touchdown.
...stopping the Baylor rushing game. Even after subtracting out sack yardage, Baylor only rushed for 109 yards on 25 carries, or 4.4 yards per carry. The Bears had been averaging 241 yards per game before Saturday.
What I didn't like...
...a subpar passing game from Klein. Again, he doesn't have to be RGIII throwing the ball. But less than 50 percent and only 5.2 yards per attempt just isn't going to cut it. And Baylor was only 72nd in the country in pass efficiency defense coming into this game, so it's not like the Bears' secondary was an impenetrable blanket. Klein is continuing the concerning habit of staring down his primary receiver and not going through his progression when the primary option is covered. Of course, I don't think the game plan really helped Klein out with that, which is my next point.
...too much passing on first down, especially the first play of a possession. By my count from looking at my game notes, K-State called seven passing plays on the first play of a drive versus five rushing calls (I'm not counting the last drive where we killed the clock). Of course, some of those designed pass plays turned into rushing plays, but they did not work very well for whatever reason. Especially with this team, I think it's important to stay ahead of the sticks as much as possible, and against a poor rushing defense such as Baylor's, I think running the ball on first down, especially when it's the first play of a drive, is a much safer option.
According to the stats on the K-State site, K-State ran 21 times on first down, and passed only 10. However, by my count K-State called 15 passing plays on first downs. That makes it almost even between running and passing on first down. I guess they're going for balance, but my preference would be to run more, especially against Baylor.
...another game where Klein gets hit 20+ times. On Saturday, it was 25 rushing attempts, including sacks. Granted, he ran out of bounds on at least a couple of those rushing attempts, but he's still getting hit an awful lot. John Hubert is making some important plays, but in an ideal world he just isn't an every-down back.
...the call on that lateral play. Holy Lord that was just terrible. And for Griffin's occasional complaints about getting hit by K-State, Klein absorbed the dirtiest hit on the day when Baylor's Ahmad Dixon hit him square in the facemask with the crown of his helmet when Hubert whiffed on the blitz pickup. I'm amazed Klein got up, because that had to hurt like hell.
What it means and where we're going...
Beating Baylor puts K-State ahead of where most non-K-State fans predicted the Cats would be at this point in the season. The performance also validated K-State's defense as a solid, competent unit that can hold its own against elite offenses, at least. It makes bowl eligibility more likely, too.
Next week brings a visit from the Missouri Tigers. Mizzou will be coming off a bye week, which always concerns me. I know we have the Scheme Doctor in Manhattan, but give any decent coach two weeks to prepare and most will come up with a solid game plan. I'll have more in Kicking the Tires later this week, but suffice to say that beating Missouri will be at least as big of a test as beating Baylor.
Previous Opponent Roundup
Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels had a bye week and are still 1-3.
Kent State: The Golden Flashes traveled to Athens, Ohio, and returned with a 17-10 loss to the Bobcats. That offense is going to challenge records for least points scored in a season at this rate.
Miami: The Hurricanes fell behind early, but handled Bethune-Cookman relatively easily, 45-14. It should be noted, however, that 21 of those points were scored in the fourth quarter.
Big 12 Roundup
Arkansas 42, Texas A&M 38
Texas Tech 45, KU 34
Despite a 20-0 first-quarter lead, KU's players suddenly remembered that they were KU and not the Houston Oilers, despite the love-ya blue uniforms they were wearing. The Jayhawks put together a relatively competent game against a suspect Tech defense, including 239 rushing yards. But Jordan Webb threw three interceptions and KU's defense gave up more than 500 yards on the day. Next week, KU will find out what it would be like to be in the path of a Category 4 hurricane when it travels to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State, while Texas Tech will welcome Texas A&M -- rudely, no doubt -- to Lubbock for the two schools' final showdown as conference mates.
Texas 37, Iowa State 14
I realize I've already said this, but this game wasn't nearly as close as the score may indicate. Texas led 34-0 at halftime and merely cruised through the second half, happy to get out of Ames as healthy as possible before next week's big game. Both Case McCoy and David Ash posted identical passing numbers (7-12-0), and Texas put up 400 total yards in about two quarters of actually giving a damn. Texas allowed 26 first downs and 380 yards to the Cyclones, but again, they really called things off after halftime and were happy to just make sure ISU didn't break any big plays. Next weekend, the Longhorns will meet Oklahoma in Dallas for the Red River Shootout, while Iowa State will travel to Waco to face Baylor.
Oklahoma 62, Ball State 6
The Sooners got one final tuneup before the matchup of undefeateds at the Texas State Fair.