The game was a complete trash fire for the most part. There’s really nothing more to say than that. The lines were both manhandled the entire game, and that was the ballgame.
Offensively, K-State managed a couple of decent drives, but only one ended in a touchdown and that was late in the fourth quarter. The run game was non-existent, and while Skylar Thompson was able to complete a bunch of passes, the offense wasn’t able to sustain because the running game just never got moving at all. The offensive line, which is composed of five guys who’ve been universally acclaimed in previous seasons, was completely manhandled all day; Skylar Thompson was sacked six times and was rarely able to sit in the pocket, Baylor piled up fifteen tackles for loss, and at one point K-State was averaging 2.2 yards per carry. They finished at 3.1, because Baylor eased up late.
The defense was fine for a half, then completely fell apart. The offense can’t be blamed for this, as they held the ball for 17 minutes in the first half, and Baylor didn’t break 20 minutes of possession until the final drive when they were killing the clock. (K-State ended with a 36:45 to 23:15 advantage.) But Baylor racked up 413 yards on only 51 plays before that final drive — 8.51 yards per play — and that’s just unacceptable.
Baylor did not have a player destroy K-State the way Oklahoma State did last week. Tyquan Thornton led Baylor with 92 yards receiving. John Lovett led the Bears with 76 yards on the ground. The problem was not K-State being unable to deal with one guy. They couldn’t deal with anyone.
Skylar Thompson was 22-34 for 218 yards and a touchdown pass to Dalton Schoen. He wasn’t great, and he made a few sketchy decisions and threw his first interception of the season. But considering the pressure Baylor was putting on him — again, six sacks — he wasn’t as terrible as some folks seem to think. Not great, but not terrible.
Schoen finally returned to being Dalton Schoen. He had six catches for 69 yards, most of them in pretty clutch situations. Phillip Brooks filled in for Knowles admirably today. He also had 69 yards on seven catches. Nick Lenners caught two balls for 20 yards, and James Gilbert had a couple out of the backfield for 21; Joshua Youngblood also hauled in a pair. Sammy Wheeler had a big catch late in the game on the touchdown drive, and got a bonus by running Chris Miller out of the game on a targeting call. (Miller should have been rung up earlier in the game for diving into Thompson’s head after a fumble.)
And Malik Knowles, who started and was targeted five times early, caught one pass before leaving for the day with a probable aggravation of his foot injury. With a bye next week, K-State should have just rested him.
Gilbert would have hit the 100-yard mark if not for lost yardage; he finished with 94 yards on only 18 carries, a respectable 5.2 YPC. But most of that actually came in two big chunks, including a 29 yard scamper on the drive which ended with the aforementioned Thompson fumble, and it should be noted that while K-State recovered them both, Gilbert fumbled twice. Joe Ervin came in late and had 32 yards on 5 carries.
K-State had one sack on the day, credited to Bronson Massie, but that was actually just on paper as Charlie Brewer was called for intentional grounding on a play where approximately four thousand Wildcats failed to tackle him.
What did we learn?
1) Devin Anctil was the star of the day, really.
Anctil punted six times, officially. He actually punted seven. On two consecutive punts, Anctil pinned Baylor at the two-yard line; the second time, the play was flagged for illegal touching because Ross Elder went out of bounds and came back in to down the punt. It was totally unnecessary, too, because he actually collided with Landry Weber while making the play; had he not been there, Weber would have downed it. Anctil did have another punt downed inside the Baylor 10, and averaged over 40 yards a kick despite his second try after the botched downing only going 26 yards.
Which is more than you can say about Baylor punter Isaac Power, who punted six times and had exactly two of them go over 35 yards and only one over 40.
2) Charlie Dickey is missed.
There’s really no other way to put it. The offensive line consists of four guys who started last year and were great, and one guy who’s played a ton of snaps for this team over the years. They’re good linemen. There is no excuse for their performance which can be attributed to their lack of skill or experience.
So you tell me. What’s wrong with them? Answer’s pretty obvious. Whether Dickey left on his own or was not retained due to Klieman’s decision, it’s having a negative impact.
3) The defensive line needs work.
Whether it’s scheming or ability, the defensive line was also worked over by Baylor today. They did manage to get into the backfield a few times, but Baylor was largely able to do their will this afternoon. The final drives, in which Baylor was just trying to kill clock and go home, reduced the Bears’ yards per play to 7.75.
Of course, that’s not all on the defensive line. They just enabled it. A large part of the problem was a complete lack of tackling in the back seven, and Klieman himself mentioned that problem during the post-game press conference. Tackling in the secondary was absolutely ghastly today, probably the worst we’ve seen since that day when we lit up Jayd Kirby in this very space.
He got better immediately. Let’s hope these guys do, too.
4) AJ Parker is good, but he’s got a height problem.
Parker’s been a fantastic corner for K-State, and he’s still the best the Cats have out there. But Denzel Mims exploited his greatest flaw today, because Mims had six inches on Parker and used every one of them. There’s nothing that can be done about this because we’re pretty sure putting players on the rack to stretch them out is frowned upon, but it’s something we have to keep an eye on.
5) Believe it or not, this game was better on paper than last week’s loss.
Crazy, yes? But it’s true in a lot of ways. Baylor ran for 158 yards; K-State ran for 123. Baylor threw for 268; K-State for 218. There wasn’t a huge gap here. The difference, of course, can be found in yards per play. Baylor only ran 55 plays to K-State’s 74. K-State was able to gain decent yards on individual plays, but they’d stall afterward. The biggest problem was on second down, where the Cats had an abysmal success rate.
But if you look at this game on paper, it wasn’t as awful as last week’s mess. K-State had no business being in the game last week; they should have been in this one a lot longer than they were. The two turnovers did play a big part in this, of course. But what we’re getting at here is that K-State looked a lot better than they were last week; this week, they completely failed the eye test but weren’t as bad as they looked.
C’est la vie.
So now, we face a team in flux. They have another bye week before hosting a vulnerable TCU Horned Frogs squad which looked terrible against Iowa St. Cyclones today. But can they get their act together and steal the critical win they’re going to need to have a real shot at a winning season? That’s the question.
We hope Chris Klieman has the answer.
(The initial version of this story incorrectly identified Walter Neil Jr. as the player who collided with Landry Weber. Our apologies for the mistake, which was all Beth Mowins’ fault.)