Will Howard set the Kansas State career record for touchdown passes and the defense scored their first two touchdowns of the season as the Wildcats rolled to a 59-25 victory over the Baylor Bears today at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in a game which wasn’t as close as the score indicated. K-State has outscored Baylor 90-28 over the last two years.
Howard’s three touchdown passes gave him 45 for his career, breaking a tie with Skylar Thompson for second all-time and passing Josh Freeman’s 44. His total for the season is now 21, making him the first Wildcat quarterback with 20 or more since Jake Waters in 2014, and putting him fifth overall, right behind Waters and Matt Miller (1995). Ell Roberson’s school record of 24 from 2003 is in sight. Howard also moved into fifth all-time in career passing yards, slipping past Roberson, Chad May, and Carl Straw; he’s about 700 yards behind Waters for fourth place.
K-State (7-3, 5-2 Big 12) once again found the end zone on their opening drive. The DJ Giddens show got off to an early start, as he had 27 yards on the ground during the first series. That, along with a couple of completions from Howard to Phillip Brooks, led to Howard dumping a screen to Giddens for an 18-yard touchdown.
The Wildcat defense was... bad on the ensuing drive. Baylor (3-7, 2-5 Big 12) scored on a 13-yard pass in less than 140 seconds. Treshaun Ward answered with a 38-yard kickoff return to give the Cats good field position, and Jayce Brown was able to induce a pass interference call on a shot to the end zone to save a 3rd-and-7. Howard found a wide-open Ben Sinnott from 14 to regain the lead.
Two plays later, Cody Stufflebean hit Blake Shapen before he could throw. The ball came loose, and Desmond Purnell scopped it up and ran untouched 15 yards for K-State’s first defensive touchdown of the season and a 21-7 cushion.
Baylor went 3-and-out, and a 35-yard scamper by Giddens helped set up 3rd-and-goal at the 1 as the first quarter ended. Ward was unable to pick up the yard, but Howard snuck it in on fourth down. Another 3-and-out led to a Baylor punt, but a bad snap was recovered by Matt Maschmeier at the two. Howard broke the record with a play-action pass to Christian Moore — his second career reception and first touchdown — to extend the lead to 35-7.
On the next drive, Khalid Duke and Alvin Ebosele traded blows and both were ejected. The Bears had to punt, although it wasn’t a 3-and-out, but a collapse of the line on 3rd-and-8 at midfield caused a 10-yard sack (away from which Howard limped) and the Cats had to punt for the first time.
The special teams collapsed too, allowing a 70-yard punt return by Josh Cameron to give Baylor the ball at the K-State 16. A 14-yard run by Dominic Richardson led to a 2-yard pass from Shapen to Dawson Pendergrass to cut the Wildcat lead to 35-13. The Bears went for two, but Shapen had to throw the ball away.
The Bears then recovered an onside kick, and converted on 4th-and-4 four plays later, and then faced 4th-and-8 with 38 seconds left in the half. Isaiah Hankins lined up to try a 51-yard field goal, but it was a fake. Palmer Williams overthrew Jake Roberts, who was blanketed by a completely unfooled Keenan Garber, and turned it over on downs. The Cats went 3-and-out, and punted with 12 seconds to go; Baylor knelt to end the half.
After forcing Baylor to punt, K-State marched. A 40-yard catch by Jadon Jackson and 30 yards on the ground from Giddens (pushing him over 100) got the Cats into the red zone, but for the first time in weeks the Cats had to settle for three as Tennant punched a 33-yarder right down the middle.
Baylor scored on a trick play, a flea-flicker which ended in a 63-yard touchdown pass to Dabney Drake. The Bears again went for two, but Shapen was picked off by Marquis Sigle, leaving the score at 38-19.
Sinnott caught a pass for 35, and shortly thereafter K-State faced 3rd-and-8 at the Baylor 35. Howard’s bubble screen was batted down at the line by a defender who Hayden Gillum had released his block on; on 4th down Howard hit Brooks for a first down. Three plays later, K-State extended the lead to 45-19 as Ward scored on a 4-yard run.
Less than two minutes later, Keenan Garber jumped the route and picked off Shapen, racing 45 yards for a pick-six. The Bears then faced 4th-and-9 at their own 35 and Shapen got drilled by Purnell, his pass flying harmlessly incomplete. On the next play, Howard launched a bomb to Jackson in the end zone, which was ruled incomplete and not reviewed; it may have been caught. That basically ended the third.
On 4th-and-5 at the 30, Howard threw incomplete and turned the ball over. Baylor moved quickly across midfield, and K-State was only saved from giving up a long touchdown pass because Shapen overthrew a wide open Monaray Baldwin. Shapen converted on fourth down with his legs, but four plays later Will Lee batted down another fourth-down pass and K-State regained possession, with Avery Johnson leading the second unit onto the field.
A 3-and-out followed by a 29-yard punt return by Cameron put Baylor in Wildcat territory again, but they went 3-and-out too, then so did K-State, and then Colby McAlister forced a Cameron fumble which was recovered by Jevon Banks. Two plays later, Avery Johnson hit Garrett Oakley for a 28-yard score, and the Cats led 59-19.
Baylor drove with time running out, with Jordan Wright being called for two penalties in coverage that allowed the Bears to get down to the six-yard line. They scored on a six-yard pass to Monaray Baldwin, his first catch of the day, with 19 seconds left, but missed the extra point. Jake Rubley came on to hand the ball off to La’James White, who put an exclamation point on things with a nine-yard run to kill the clock.
Howard was 19-29 for 235 yards, while Johnson was 2-5 for 33 and a score. Giddens had 115 yards on 18 carries, giving him 859 with three or four games remaining; Ward added 44 on 10 and a touchdown. Brooks led the receivers with 5 catches, gaining 41 yards, while Sinnott led in yardage with 3 catches for 68. Oakley grabbed three balls for 46, Johnson had 3-31, Jackson had 2-53, and Giddens had 2-19, giving him 134 yards of offense on the day and 1,141 on the season.
K-State rolled up 451 yards of offense, despite having extremely short fields on multiple occasions. The Wildcat defense held Baylor to 332 yards, almost 100 of which came in garbage time, and just 85 on the ground. Baylor was only 4-17 on third down, but convert 4-8 on fourth. They won the turnover battle 4-0, while penalties were basically even; 4-45 for the Bears and 5-42 for K-State. Baylor actually held the ball for 32:01 in this game, for all the good it did them, but when a team scores two defensive touchdowns and gets another possession at the opponent’s two-yard line that’ll happen.
WHAT WE LEARNED
1) The defense came out unfocused again, but got it together quickly.
Baylor’s first drive put the fear of disaster into K-State fans, but the Bears barely gained 200 yards afterward. More importantly, the defense started making the sort of plays K-State defenses are known for, essentially contributing 21 points to the Wildcat scoreboard.
2) The receivers are... good now?
The only “drop” on the stat sheet was a pass Brown dropped which was borderline catchable. The only receivers whose targets exceeded their catches by more than two were Brown and Johnson; Brooks caught all five balls thrown to him, Oakley and Garcia were 1-1, and Sinnott only let one get away.
3) The playcalling was fine!
There was not one moment in the BotC Discord chat where anyone said “What the hell are you doing?” This despite the fact that everyone’s expectation was that the Cats would just run the ball down Baylor’s throat, but it turned out that throwing the ball early was Actually Good.
4) The offensive line was a little shaky, but nothing disastrous.
We noted a play in which Howard had a pass batted down because Gillum just released his block, and most of Howard’s incompletions were throwaways under pressure. But Howard was only sacked once and Baylor only had two other tackles for loss, so we’ll take it.
5) This team needs a special teams coach.
K-State’s special teams have been anything but under Chris Klieman, with the exception of Seth Porter’s utter manhood. The big special teams plays which have been this team’s bread and butter have just been missing, and the failures on coverage have been problematic.
The kickoff return following K-State’s final touchdown is emblematic of the issue. Although Jordan Nabors never got another yard after first contact with K-State’s coverage team, he was able to bounce around for 20 yards laterally before someone finally made him take a seat. That’s just inexcusable football, and needs to be addressed.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
You have to give the offensive award to Will Howard on a day when he set the K-State career touchdown pass record, right? Defensively, the award was earned by Cody Stufflebean, who had two sacks and a forced fumble, as well as keeping the linebacker corps solid after Jake Clifton went out with a leg injury.
The Sunflower Showdown in Lawrence, made spicier by the Jayhawks completely biffing it against Texas Tech today. ‘nuff said.