Story by Adam Gibson | Sports Writer, Video by Noah Torr | Broadcast Reporter
In a back-and-forth scoring shootout, Baylor football battled for a win over Kansas State 37-34 Saturday at McLane Stadium.
Baylor head coach Matt Rhule said he was glad the team was able to pull off the win and never give up despite the missed opportunities.
“Thought the first half, you know, as I told the guys at half-time, statistically dominated, but just warrant able to put all the points on the board we probably would like to,” Rhule said. “Happy for [junior kicker] Connor Martin that he took advantage of his opportunity to make one more kick. Proud of a lot of guys, stepped up for us that had not played a ton, and all I told our team was, ‘I want to win and I want to see a team that fights.’”
The Bears’ offense came out on the field after receiving the opening kick-off, and marched 58 yards on 11 plays to get a field goal by junior kicker Connor Martin, giving Baylor the early lead. Martin did not have the same luck for most of the game as he missed the following extra point on a sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer rushing touchdown and had two more field goals through the rest of the game. Martin said it was his responsibility to make those kicks and made the winning one for his teammates.
“I felt like I owed everybody, it’s the job as a specialist,” Martin said. “Your job really is to help the offense when they’re not able to get things going. I feel like our offense and defense bailed me out a lot. I left a lot of points on the field and I really wanted it for them. I was like, ‘I got to make it for these guys. They’ve saved my butt all night.’”
The Bears’ defense had three sacks, an interception and held Kansas State sophomore quarterback Skylar Thompson to 149 yards and a touchdown. While it performed well in these areas, the running game was a completely different story. Baylor allowed 319 yards rushing off 35 attempts, resulting in an average of a 9.1 yard gain per rush and four touchdowns. Sophomore running back Alex Barnes broke out three touchdown rushes with his shortest one being 34 yards, and the longest 55 yards.
Unlike the past few weeks, the Bears cleaned up the penalties, having one in each half for a total of 10 yards. Just two weeks ago against Kansas, Baylor had 13 penalties for 141 yards. Against Oklahoma last week, the Bears recorded nine penalties for 75 yards. This dramatic change in penalties came at a great time for the Bears as the game was held so close and was decided by field goal with eight seconds left in the game. Rhule said penalties can mess with the speed of the game and this week the team did a good job of moving away from those mistakes.
“Penalties, obviously they get you out of whack,” Rhule said. “I think the other thing is when you’re trying to play aggressively, the way we like to play, you start getting penalties, you start to slow down in tempo … today we played within ourselves. I’d like to say it’s us, but I think it’s just our players, you know, just getting a little bit more confident and I thought that was an excellent group. I thought they communicated well. The players on both teams had a chance to play.”
Sophomore running back Trestan Ebner had 17 carries to lead the rushers for 100 yards. The game marked the first time Ebner had rushed for 100 yards in his collegiate career. To give Ebner a break, Rhule put in freshman running back Craig Williams for his first appearance in a Baylor uniform. Williams made his presence felt as he had two rushes for 35 yards. One of those rushes was a 21-yard touchdown run, weaving through defenders to find the end zone to give Baylor a 34-27 lead with 6:41 left in the game. Williams said scoring his first touchdown was a good feeling and he’s going to make sure to be ready when he has his name called in the future.
“That first college touchdown feels great, but like I said I’m going to remain humble, stay patient, and when I get called again, I’ll be ready,” Williams said. “This is a special win. It showed us that we are a team and that we have each other’s back. For us to go out and play like that felt great.”
Brewer finished his day completing 30 of his 44 passing attempts for 296 yards, an interception and a touchdown. He also found the end zone on a three yard rush for his only rushing touchdown of the day. Brewer said as the offense drove down the field to score the final field goal, it was a great feeling and today was a huge win for the Bears.
“It felt amazing. We’ve been real close to doing that in a few games,” Brewer said. “By no means was it perfect, we played pretty bad offensively for a lot of the game but we battled it out and good teams find a way. We found a way today … It’s crucial. The majority of your games are going to be like that. The more you can get used to that and build your confidence up late in the game in the fourth quarter, I think it’s really important for the team.”
The Bears face a tough test on the road against Texas at 2:30 p.m. next Saturday in Austin as the Longhorns are coming off a 48-45 upset of the No. 7 Oklahoma Sooners.