Football looks to claw past physical Wildcat defense

Baylor sophomore running back John Lovett carries the ball against Abilene Christian on Sept. 1 at McLane Stadium. Jason Pedreros | Multimedia Journalist

By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer

Coming off its biggest loss of the season, Baylor football returns home to face the Kansas State Wildcats at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at McLane Stadium.

Baylor head coach Matt Rhule said the loss to Oklahoma was clearly not what the Bears were hoping for, but the team played well in many aspects. This week the focus is now all on the Wildcats and overcoming the mistakes from last week in order to overpower the Kansas State defense.

“Obviously disappointed about the game on Saturday, disappointed in the result. I thought our guys went out there and at times played really good football,” Rhule said. “We’ll look ahead to Kansas State. A very disciplined football team that had no penalties last week. A team that’s stout on defense, plays two quarterbacks. And we’ll try to shore up our defense, try to play a little bit better on special teams and try to continue to improve our running game as we get ready to face Coach [Bill] Snyder and the coaching legend he is.”

Baylor has won four out of the last five meetings in Waco between the teams. Last season, the teams squared off in Manhattan, Kan., where Baylor lost 33-20. The offense of the Wildcats has struggled the past two games, scoring only a combined 20 points between the two. The defense has had more success and, last week, held then No. 18 Texas to 339 total yards and 19 points. Rhule said when it comes to the style of play for Kansas State, you can’t afford to have any turnovers or lose the ball and the offense will have to score when the opportunity arises.

“Kansas State plays great defense,” Rhule said. “Not including the punt return and the safety. They do a great job coaching their team. We just have to take advantage of our opportunities and make the most of our offensive possessions. We can’t go out and drop the ball and have penalties. We have to make the most of when we have the ball.”

Last week, the Wildcats had two sacks in their matchup with the Longhorns and only allowed 111 rushing yards. Junior offensive lineman Sam Tecklenburg said the Kansas State defense will force the Bears to play at their best in order to ensure offensive success.

“They got a really good defense in my eyes. I think they’re good players, and this is a team that’s tough and disciplined,” Tecklenburg said. “So it’s going to be a matter of can you beat the man in front of you this week. I think that’s our biggest thing. We know they’re going to be tough; we know they’re going to be disciplined. We have to take it to another level and be more tough than them … We’ve just got to take it to a new level and have some pride in not letting them touch our quarterback.”

When it comes to the Kansas State offense, they have not had much success recently, but Rhule said last year showed just how well coached the Wildcats are. Rhule said the Wildcats are disciplined and don’t make too many mistakes, so the Bears will have to try to find a way to stop them.

“The biggest thing about Kansas State is twofold. Number one, they’re physical, tough, they run the ball downhill at you, they control the clock, and they don’t beat themselves,” Rhule said. “The second part is they have the added component of the quarterback run. We played them last year and they kept running the quarterback, kept running the quarterback, and that was the difference in the game. And when the quarterback runs, we can’t let it be an explosive. That will be the focus this week.”

Senior defensive end Greg Roberts is coming off one of the best games of his career, recording his second and third sacks for Baylor. Like Rhule, Roberts said this game is one where the team knows how to put what they do in practice onto the field, but the game plan remains the same for the Bears to go out and execute.

“I’ve been here a while, played them two times before, and they’re true to form. They are who they are, they don’t change up much depending on who the opponent is,” Roberts said. “So, essentially, it’s a technique game. It just comes down to how you do your job, … We try to attack every game the same.”