Road Test

The Bears open Big 12 play on the road against a tough Kansas State squad

Baylor football played Rice on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011, at Floyd Casey Stadium. Baylor beat Rice 56-31.
Meagan Downing | Lariat Photographer

By Tyler Alley
Sports Writer

Baylor football has not started a season 4-0 since 1991 and has never won a game in Manhattan, Kan., the home of Kansas State.

The No. 15 Bears look to do both this weekend as they begin Big 12 conference play, traveling to take on the Wildcats at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC.

“[Kansas State] has a lot of momentum,” head coach Art Briles said. “That’s why it’s the premiere game of the conference this week. They’re 3-0; we’re 3-0. We’re proud of where we are at this stage of the season.”

For both teams, the remainder of the season consists strictly of conference opponents.

“Now we start on the second phase, which is getting into conference play and going one game at a time,” Briles said. “Understand that every game is going to be a war, and it will be no different this Saturday in Manhattan.”

Baylor heads on the road for the first time this year after going 3-0 in their non-conference home games, including the dramatic 50-48 victory over TCU.

Headlining for the Bears is Heisman-candidate junior quarterback Robert Griffin III, who leads the nation in completion percentage at 85.4 percent. He leads the Bears into Manhattan for the first time since 2007.

“It’ll be a good experience,” Griffin said. “I’ve never been to Manhattan. I’ve heard it’s a great atmosphere. They have great fans. Sure they won’t be great toward us, but that’s how fans are supposed to be. They’re coming off a big win, so there’s going to be a lot of fans. And it’s going to be on TV, so they’re going to make sure they look good.”

Baylor is 2-6 all time against Kansas State. Last season, Baylor defeated the Wildcats in Waco, 47-42, to earn the Bears’ first bowl bid since 1994. Griffin threw for a career-high 404 yards and four touchdowns. The offense gained a total of 683 yards.

One stat that stands out for Griffin is his 13 touchdowns compared to 12 incompletions on the season.

“It’s my job to make sure we stay on the field and move the chain, and that’s the biggest growth I’ve had,” Griffin said. “You don’t always have to take the huge shots. Sometimes you have to take the guy who’s sitting in the flat just so you can stay on the field and gain positive yards.”

Kansas State features the No. 1 defense in the Big 12 so far in terms of points and yards allowed. Baylor ranks second nationally in total offense and third in scoring offense.

“Kansas State has a great defense, and we’re looking forward to the challenge,” said senior running back Terrance Ganaway. “I believe they’re going to come out guns blazing, and that’s fine. I think it’s going to be exciting.”

Ganaway ranks fifth in the Big 12 in rushing yards.

Kansas State ranks last in the Big 12 in scoring offense. The Baylor defense, though, is not overlooking this team going into conference play.

“This week we have to be a lot more physical than their offensive linemen,” junior defensive end Gary Mason Jr. said. “We’ve got to have good communication between the (defensive) line and linebackers. But I know if we have any miscues, they’ll break a long run, so we have to be sharp on that.”

Senior inside receiver Kendall Wright is Baylor’s all-time leader in career receptions, career receiving yards and career receiving touchdowns. He ranks second nationally in receiving yards per game and third in receptions.

Baylor’s No. 15 ranking in the AP poll is its highest since 1991, and Griffin says the team is only looking to go higher.

“We work hard for what we’ve gotten,” Griffin said. “It hasn’t been given to us. We didn’t come into the season ranked. It’s our job to keep working hard. We want to keep climbing, keep doing great things, and keep winning football games.”