By Bailey Brammer | Editor-in-Chief
Baylor fell to 0-5 for the first time since 1969 on Saturday with a 33-20 loss to Kansas State at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium in Manhattan, Kan.
The Bears struggled in the first half, putting up one field goal and 80 total yards, only 10 of which were rushing yards, but came back in the second half to hold the Wildcats (3-1) to a scoreless third quarter. Although senior Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz was only seven for 17 passing the football for 119 yards, he led his team in rushing with 95 yards. In total, Kansas State had 225 total rushing yards compared to Baylor’s 84 yards.
It was this strong run game and a defense that had nine tackles-for-loss, three of which were made by senior defensive tackle Will Geary, that kept Baylor from bouncing back in the second half. Additionally, Baylor’s special teams had a hard time finding their balance, which resulted in a blocked field goal in the second quarter and only one punt return for three yards for the Bears compared to Kansas State’s two punt returns for a total of 45 yards.
“I am extremely disappointed in today’s result,” said Baylor head coach Matt Rhule. “For the fifth straight game we had the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead … There are areas getting better, but at the end of the day there are five, six, seven or eight plays that are preventing us from winning. We have not been able to make those plays.”
Despite the loss, sophomore quarterback Zach Smith threw for 291 yards and connected with six different receivers, favoring sophomore wide receivers Pooh Stricklin and Denzel Mims. Stricklin finished with nine catches for 102 yards while Mims had seven catches for 127 yards.
“When you don’t get wins, it is always going to be a little frustrating,” Mims said. “But we just have to come to practice every day and keep working until we can make those plays to win the game.”
In the first quarter, the Wildcats scored an early touchdown on a 16-yard pass from Ertz to sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Zuber to put Kansas State in the lead at 7-0. Baylor could not follow through to match the Wildcats’ score, despite a five-for-five completion streak from Smith.
Sophomore place kicker Connor Martin, who took over for junior punter Drew Galitz, put the Bears on the scoreboard with a 38-yard field goal. Galitz was ruled out for the game after a knee injury on his first kick.
The start of the second quarter saw Kansas State senior kicker Matthew McCrane increase the Wildcats’ lead to 10-3 with a 37-yard field goal.
After a punt from Martin to the Kansas State 3-yard line, Wildcats junior defensive back D.J. Reed caught and then fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Baylor’s sophomore cornerback Marques Jones on the Wildcats’ 14-yard-line. The Bears attempted to build off this momentum, but a seven-yard sack by Kansas State senior defensive end Davis Clark and a blocked field goal by sophomore defensive end Reggie Walker kept Baylor from scoring.
Kansas State continued to beat down the Bears with a second touchdown by junior fullback Winston Dimel and a second field goal by McCrane, bringing the score to 20-3 at the end of the first half.
The Bears received the ball to start the second half, and Geary sacked Smith for the second time of the game for a six-yard loss. On a fourth down, Martin faked a punt and rushed for 16 yards and a first down. Baylor failed again to grab a touchdown, but settled with a 27-yard field goal by Martin, bringing the score to 20-6.
On the Bears’ second possession of the second half, an explosive 74-yard touchdown by freshman running back John Lovett put Baylor back in the game with a score of 20-13. Lovett’s run was the longest for Baylor this season.
“We made the plays that we knew we needed to make,” Lovett said. “We said that this game was going to go in to the fourth quarter, but we needed to win the third quarter. We won the third quarter, but came up short in the fourth quarter. We have a lot of work to do.”
Kansas State and Baylor traded off possessions once more in the third quarter before a fumble by the Bears was recovered by Wildcat sophomore defensive end Kyle Ball in what could have been a game-defining turnover. Blasting into the final quarter, Ertz rushed for 15 yards to nail down another touchdown for Kansas State, giving the Wildcats a 27-13 lead.
Baylor quickly answered the Wildcats’ scoring drive with a pass from Smith to Mims for a 70-yard Bears touchdown and a score of 27-20. In each of Baylor’s five games this season, Mims has recorded a 20+ yard touchdown.
Ertz and the Wildcats continued their run game, but instead of securing their lead with another touchdown, they upped the score to 30-20 with a 49-yard field goal by McCrane. The Bears tried again to catch up to the Wildcats, but Martin fumbled the ball on a punt and the fumble was recovered by Kansas State. McCrane hit another field goal from 23 yards, making the score 33-20.
With less than five minutes left in the game, Geary sacked Smith again for a six-yard loss, and then Smith threw his first and only interception of the game to junior defensive back Kendall Adams, giving Kansas State back the ball with 2:44 left in the game, and securing a Wildcat victory.
The Bears have a bye-week next Saturday, but will pick back up at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 14 at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Okla.