Kansas State thought they had the game won on a fumble recovery with 2:27 remaining. But the call was overturned on replay, and John Mayers hit a 30-yard field goal with no time left to give Baylor (2-6, 2-6) a 32-31 win at McLane Stadium in Waco.
Things began badly for the Wildcats (4-5, 4-4 Big 12). On their third play, Will Howard threw a really bad pass to nowhere which was picked off by JT Woods and returned to the Wildcat nine-yard-line. Two plays later Charlie Brewer ran in fron the seven, but a bad snap caused the point after to fail. Still, less than two minutes into the game Baylor led 6-0.
But then Malik Knowles struck like lightning. Taking the handoff on an end-around, Knowles raced 75 yards to tie the score, and Blake Lynch added the extra point to give the Cats the lead.
Drew Wiley sacked Charlie Brewer to start Baylor’s second possession, but a couple of plays later Wiley was called for unnecessary roughness after being shoved into a Baylor player, extending the drive. But on third down two plays later, Wyatt Hubert sacked Brewer to finally force a punt, which was rushed after a bad snap and might have been tipped.
K-State went three-and-out, but Wayne Jones recovered a muffed punt which the officials tried to rule as illegal touching before reversing themselves. That gave the Cats possession at the Baylor 35, and Deuce Vaughn and Harry Trotter ground the ball down inside the 10. Howard finished things with an eight-yard pass to Vaughn to give K-State a 14-6 lead.
Baylor went three-and-out, including another sack (this time by Cody Fletcher), and Baylor interfered with the fair catch attempt by Phillip Brooks, giving K-State the ball just shy of midfield. On a third-down run, Howard was drilled by Woods, who was called for targeting, and there was no question in the replay booth. The drive stalled inside the Baylor five, however, and K-State settled for a 20-yarder by Lynch.
After another three-and-out, K-State effectively arm-punted when Howard was picked off at the Baylor 32 by Christian Morgan. Sacks by Hubert and Daniel Green spoiled the Baylor drive, which ended on a turnover on downs at K-State’s 26. K-State got to midfield, but had to punt with 37 seconds left in the half; Baylor didn’t do anything, and the gun sounded with K-State leading 17-6.
A big 44-yard catch-and-run to Trestan Ebner keyed the opening drive of the second half for Baylor, but in the red zone K-State’s defense held and forced a 28-yard Mayers field goal. K-State went three-and-out, Howard being ruled a yard short on third down, and punted; Baylor marched downfield and scored, aided by a 35-yard circus catch by RJ Sneed which was upheld on review. Baylor went for two and failed, leaving the Cats with a 17-15 lead.
K-State couldn’t get much done and had to punt, but a Jahron McPherson sack ended Baylor’s threat at the Baylor 40 just as the third quarter ended. And since it was no longer the third quarter, after the punt Howard did something strange: he took his time, set himself, stepped into the throw, and found Briley Moore for a 49-yard completion. On the next play, Howard ran it in himself from 24 yards out. Two plays, 73 yards, and K-State extended the lead back to nine at 24-15.
Baylor again eviscerated the Wildcat defense, however. Baylor converted two third downs, then a 29-yard pass to Josh Fleeks which ended with a unnecessary roughness call on Ross Elder put the Bears at the 8. Brewer tossed to Ebner for a touchdown on the next play.
No problem. Trotter gained 19 yards on two carries, which set up a 38-yard touchdown run for Vaughn.
A 40-yard kickoff return by Ebner put Baylor in business, and a completely bogus roughing the passer call on Khalid Duke extended the drive when it looked like Baylor would have to settle for a field goal attempt. Brewer eventually scored on a one-yard run, closing the gap to 31-29.
Then the offense seized up. A three-and-out gave Baylor the ball with 2:32 to go, although Ty Zentner’s 51-yard punt did give the defense some breathing room. On Baylor’s first play, Brewer ran but Daniel Green appeared to knock the ball loose on a bang-bang call in which there was question as to whether Brewer was already down. AJ Parker recovered, but the call was overturned. Baylor marched downfield again, leading to the fateful finish.
Howard was a sub-par 9-18 for only 88 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran for 41 yards. Vaughn had 102 yards rushing on 19 carries, and led the team in receptions with three for 19. Moore led in receiving yards with 55 on two catches. Knowles added 81 yards on the ground, and had one catch for 16 yards; Trotter had 32 yards on five carries.
For Baylor, Brewer went 31-39 for 349 with two touchdowns, and also led the Bears with 56 yards on the ground. Four different Baylor receivers had at least five catches, with Sneed leading the way with 86 yards on 6 receptions.
Baylor outgained the Cats 420-344; K-State outrushed the Bears 256-71, but the difference between Howard and Brewer erased that massive advantage. Baylor faced third down 16 times; including one fourth-down conversion, they converted eight times. The Cats actually had more yards per play than Baylor, 6.5 to 5.6, and the most impressive stat of the day is probably Baylor being held to a mere two yards per carry on the day.
Players of the game
Defensively, we’re going with Green tonight, who was all over the place. He had 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss... plus he forced the fumble that wasn’t. Offensively, it’s Vaughn, who’s back in form.
What did we learn?
1) Will Howard needs to learn to just breathe, man.
Howard’s best play of the day was the 49-yard pass to Moore, when he took his time, set himself, and stepped into the throw. It was the first time all day he’d actually done those things. The ability to show poise is going to be the thing which ultimately makes or breaks the young quarterback, so he’d better learn to keep doing that.
The most depressing thing about tonight, however, was that Howard’s mistakes were pretty much entirely Howard’s fault. Receivers only dropped a couple of balls; the other incompletions — and, of course, the interceptions — were simply bad passes.
2) Some sort of adjustment has in fact been made to help Deuce Vaughn.
After three weeks of being keyed on and limited, Vaughn was pretty effective today. One thing which stood out was the use of Trotter to take some attention off the freshman, but that tactic — which led to Vaughn’s long touchdown run — didn’t happen until the fourth quarter.
Still, Vaughn managed almost four yards a carry before that play, so he was more effective than he has been of late.
3) The defensive line is really good, y’all.
K-State’s defensive interior owned the line of scrimmage today. For the most part, any failures inside were a result of too much push and over-pursuit; Brewer was harassed at will for the best portion of the night.
The result? K-State recorded seven sacks. That’s just two shy of the school record.
4) Malik Knowles is back.
The mercurial receiver announced his presence this evening with a 75-yard touchdown which erased the memory of Howard’s first interception. He had another carry for six yards and caught a pass; not many touches, but they were effective at 33.3 yards per play.
5) Seriously, the third quarter just has to go.
The rest of the Wildcat media has finally caught on to what we’ve been saying all season: K-State’s got a serious third quarter problem. Since things have unerringly improved in the fourth quarter for K-State all season, there is only one reason for this problem. We all know what it is: adjustments.