No. 11 Baylor football relies on defense for road win against KSU

Against Kansas State University redshirt freshman quarterback Blake Shapen takes control of the offense as junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon is taken out due to injury. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics.

By Michael Haag | Sports Writer

No. 11 Baylor football (9-2, 6-2 Big 12) defeated Kansas State University 20-10 Saturday night at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan. in a tight contest. The Bears now have four straight wins against the Wildcats (7-4, 4-4 Big 12), tying the longest win streak in matchup history.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Blake Shapen was forced to take over the offense late in the second quarter, due to a hamstring injury to junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon. Shapen had only thrown three career passes to this point, but was 16 of 21 for 137 yards after taking over. He got some help from fifth-year senior running back Trestan Ebner, who led the way on the ground, as he recorded 86-yards and one rushing TD on 11 attempts. Senior wide receiver Tyquan Thornton chipped in out wide, posting 75-yards on five receptions.

Head coach Dave Aranda said that Shapen stays ready for any situation that he is thrown in.

“Every situation Blake’s been put in going back to the spring, fall, throughout our practices when he rotates through — he’s risen to every occasion,” Aranda said. “There’s some gunslinger in him. I think you saw that.”

Baylor’s opening drive stalled with a three-and-out and they were forced to punt. On the kick, the catch was botched and redshirt freshman cornerback AJ McCarty recovered. Ebner capitalized off the special teams mistake, as he took a handoff from Bohanon and scurried outside to the right and into the end zone to give Baylor the 7-0 lead.

Both defenses made key stops and each team was forced to punt several times. Early in the second quarter, Baylor found a rhythm offensively with the help from a fourth-down conversion. Set up on the goal line, Bohanon connected with sophomore tight end Drake Dabney to put the Bears up 14-0. The TD capped off a 15-play 74-yard drive that took over seven minutes of time off the clock.

The Bears defense came out strong again on the Wildcats’ next drive, forcing KSU to punt on fourth-and-5 after three quick plays. However, another special teams blunder ensued, as Baylor lined up offsides, giving KSU a first down. On the first play after the penalty, Wildcat sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn blew through a hole and took a handoff 65-yards to the house. Baylor’s lead was cut to seven, with a little over three minutes in the second quarter.

On BU’s next drive, Bohanon went down with a hamstring injury on an outside scramble. Redshirt freshman backup quarterback Blake Shapen took over the center to lead the Bears offense. Shapen moved the offense into field goal range with three seconds left in the half. Freshman kicker Isaiah Hankins drilled the 22-yard kick to finish the 13-play, 69-yard march. The Bears led 17-7 going into the intermission.

Sixth-year transfer senior wide receiver Drew Estrada said the team knew it would be a tough draw going into the matchup. He said the team was aware of their road struggles they have had this season and prepared for it.

“We knew this was going to be a really tough test coming into Manhattan, a big crowd, on the road, and obviously we’ve had some trouble in the past on the road,” Estrada said. “All week we knew it would be a battle.”

Neither team generated offense on their opening drives of the third quarter, but the Wildcats were able to strike first. After moving into the red zone, the Bears were able to force a field goal attempt . KSU chipped in the 28-yard kick and brought it back to a one score game with over eight minutes left in the quarter.

Baylor and KSU both struggled offensively on their next drives and exchanged possessions. Under four minutes to go in the third quarter, Baylor obtained the ball, looking to extend the lead. With the help of a 28-yard scramble from Shapen, the Bears moved to the Wildcat 25-yard line. The third quarter ended in the middle of the drive, and Baylor was set up with a field goal attempt to start the final quarter. Hankins connected from 28-yards out to conclude the 13-play, 72-yard drive and extend BU’s lead back to 10. The kick allowed the Bears to lead 20-10 with 13:36 left in the contest.

KSU responded with an explosive, 48-yard pass from senior quarterback Skylar Thompson to a streaking junior wide receiver Malik Knowles. The play set up the Wildcats’ offense on Baylor’s 23-yard line, and threatened to score. The Bears’ defense held strong once again, forcing another field goal attempt. KSU’s 39-yard field goal attempt fell wide of the posts, and Baylor took over with just over nine minutes in the game, still up by 10.

Even with a 31-yard run from Ebner on the drive, KSU got the ball back on a massive tackle-for-loss on a fourth-and-1. On the ensuing drive for the Wildcats, Thompson went down with an injury and was forced to leave the game. Sophomore quarterback Jaren Lewis entered the game, and on his first passing attempt, threw an interception over the middle of the field to junior cornerback Al Walcott. After getting his first career interception in last week’s upset win over the University of Oklahoma, Walcott now has interceptions in back-to-back wins. The Bears ran the clock out and secured the 20-10 victory.

Aranda said he is proud of the team for their road performance. He said the team was ready to execute and did everything that was necessary to get the win.

“I’m proud of our team. I’m proud of our players,” Aranda said. “This has been an obstacle. To come out and have a week of really strong decisions and choices, to do hard things, to do better, to have a mindset of getting ready for a fight and focusing on things you can control daily — I think all that went into tonight.”

Up next, Baylor will finish the regular season as they play host to Texas Tech University (6-4, 3-4). Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at McLane Stadium.