Kansas State (6-4, 4-3), carried on the legs of redshirt freshman running back Alex Barnes, exploded for 28 second-half points and swarmed over the helpless Baylor Bears (6-4, 3-4) in a 42-21 blowout at McLane Stadium in Waco. The win snapped both a four-game losing streak in Waco, and a four-game losing streak to Baylor overall. More importantly, the win secured K-State’s bowl eligibility, put K-State in sole possession of fourth place in the Big 12, and set up next week’s Sunflower Showdown as the probable scene of Bill Snyder’s 200th career victory.
The first half was an abysmal display of football from both sides. Baylor went into halftime with a 14-7 lead, largely due to a blind pig finding two truffles; Zach Smith had all sorts of trouble finding receivers and escaping rushers, but managed to get the Bears into the end zone twice anyway.
Of course, the first time was largely due to the generosity of the Wildcat defense, which was penalized for a ridiculous 55 yards on a single drive. Other than that drive, however, K-State’s defense was on point the entire game. The offense? We’re just not even going to discuss the first-half offense, whose primary feature seemed to be Jesse Ertz getting sacked instead of getting rid of the football.
Then the second half started, and everything changed.
Charles Jones started the half, and helped get K-State past midfield, but after that it was the Alex Barnes show. Barnes had 85 yards and three touchdowns in the third quarter alone, and K-State turned that 14-7 deficit into a 28-14 lead. In the final frame, Barnes added a fourth touchdown, and Winston Dimel added his second of the day.
The last two K-State touchdowns were aided by big plays: a 76-yard kickoff return by D.J. Reed and an interception by Dante Barnett. Both plays resulted in K-State taking possession inside the Baylor 25, and easy scores. After the second of those two touchdowns — which came with over three minutes to play — Baylor basically threw in the towel, choosing to all but run out the clock themselves.
All in all, a satisfying revenge for four years of grief.
Ertz was 16-25 for 177 yards, which isn’t bad, but we need to factor in the sacks to get a real picture of his passing effectiveness. He ran for 46 yards, but that includes the sack yardage, so he really ran for a lot more.
Barnes, we’ll get to in a minute. Jones had 46 yards on six carries, which is pretty good too. With only three games left, this is an academic discussion, but K-State could do worse than just rotating these two guys the rest of the year. Justin Silmon had 11 yards on four carries, and Winston Dimel had eight yards, three touches, and two touchdowns.
Byron Pringle led the receiving corps with five catches, but only for 46 yards; Deante Burton had four grabs for 82 and Isaiah Zuber caught four balls as well.
The defense did stuff too. Will Geary and Trey Dishon recorded sacks. So did Reggie Walker, who also forced a fumble and recovered one. Tanner Wood and Elijah Lee forced fumbles. Donnie Starks had two picks, and Dante Barnett sealed the game with another.
For Baylor, Smith went 27-45 for 258 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Shock Linwood did manage 110 yards on the ground, but it took him 24 tries to get there. KD Cannon led the Bears receiving corps with nine catches for 91 yards.
Overall, K-State outgained Baylor 414-368, and Baylor only threw for 21 more yards than K-State got on the ground as the Cats ran for 237 on the day. Baylor’s rushing yardage equaled Linwood’s, as everyone else’s balanced out to zero. As a result, K-State held Baylor to 3.33 yards per carry.
That’s pretty good, right?
So, what did we learn today?
1) Alex Barnes is pretty good at the football.
19 carries. 129 yards (6.79 per carry). Four touchdowns. His entry into the game provided spark, and lots of first downs; every time he came out of the game from that point on, and every time K-State started trying to do something other than “hand Alex the ball”, it went awry.
2) No, really, this Alex Barnes kid is something.
Think about this. Today isn’t anything new and interesting. Barnes has spent the whole season coming off the bench, gaining an absurd number of yards per carry, and then going back on the shelf. Today, he got to stay in the game, and wowzers.
3) We get three more years of Alex Barnes.
We need to caution Manhattan law enforcement about something very important. Derek Smith may get carried way with his adoration. We’ll hear more from Derek later.
4) Thankfully, Good Donnie Starks™ has returned from sabbatical.
Never mind the two picks — the first two of his career, no less. Starks was all over the place today, covering well, laying wood, and playing a large part in K-State holding Baylor to an absurdly low yards-per-carry number. When Starks is bad, he’s noticeable. When he’s good, we usually have to point it out. Today, we didn’t. Donnie was the clear defensive MVP. (No offense to Elijah Lee, who flat murdered Ish Zamora and the prosecutor declined to press charges.)
5) We’re not mad at D.J. Reed anymore.
Never mind the 76-yard kickoff return. For once, D.J. didn’t get abused in coverage, didn’t helplessly whiff on any tackles, didn’t get out of position. It was a great game for the corner, who we’ve had some bad words for in the past due to inconsistency. Hats off, D.J. You done good.