Bears return key offensive pieces en route to matchup against reeling Wildcats

Josh Fleeks runs the ball against Texas tech during the Bears 24-23 loss in Lubbock on Nov. 14. Photo courtesy of Texas Tech Athletics

By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer

Baylor football continues to search for a second Big 12 win this season, as head coach Dave Aranda and the Bears look to snap a five-game losing streak.

Following a heartbreaking loss to Texas Tech where the Bears allowed the final 12 points in a 24-23 defeat, Baylor will look to gain some momentum against Kansas State this weekend in Waco.

Kansas State enters the game 4-4 and is reeling as well. The Wildcats opened conference play with three straight wins, one over No. 14 Oklahoma, but have since lost their last three games in a row.

Part of the struggles has stemmed from the loss of senior quarterback Skylar Thompson, who was ruled out for the rest of the season following an upper-body injury against Texas Tech.

True freshman Will Howard filled in for Thompson but has struggled, throwing six interceptions in the past five games. Against Iowa State last Saturday, he was benched in favor of junior Nick Ast. Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman said he will evaluate both quarterbacks in the lead-up to Saturday’s matchup against the Bears.

The Wildcats will be desperate to bounce back after suffering one of the worst losses in program history at the hands of Iowa State. K-State was held scoreless for the first time in five years in the 45-0 loss in Ames, Iowa.

“It should sting. It should hurt,” Klieman said. “It has to, but we have to move on and get ready to go on Monday because we’ve got another tough road trip to Baylor. We need to learn from it, and we need to improve.”

Despite the recent struggles, Aranda praised Kansas State’s discipline and that he understands the position the Wildcats are in.

“I think they’re really well-coached,” Aranda said. “Now, they’re hurting with personnel, guys that were playing early are not playing now on both sides. So, I certainly emphasize there and know the struggle that’s going on there. But, I have a lot of respect for the staff and the team, and I know they’re going to put their best effort here come Saturday.”

Baylor has the advantage of coming off a bye week, which Aranda said the Bears put to good use. Aranda said the emphasis this week, however, is on winning each day, with the hope that the small wins will lead to a win on Saturday.

“I think it’s that, I think it’s us. I think it’s the ability to win today,” Aranda said. “So winning today, whether that’s everyone being here early for their learning specialist, everyone’s being early for tutoring, everyone’s making their classes — when we do those and we stack those wins, the wins on Saturday will come.”

Baylor will be bolstered by the return of junior wide receiver Tyquan Thornton, sophomore tight end Ben Sims and senior running back John Lovett. The important offensive trio has not been available since the TCU game in October.

Baylor will face off against Kansas State at 6 p.m. this Saturday in McLane Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2.