By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Baylor football scored a first-drive touchdown for the first time since 2022, but 28 unanswered points by No. 25 Kansas State over the next 19 minutes put the Bears in a deep hole. The Wildcats outscored Baylor in all four quarters, and they rolled to a 59-25 victory Saturday evening at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan.
The Bears’ (3-7, 2-5 Big 12) loss — their third in a row — means they can no longer become bowl-eligible. Baylor has made a bowl game in 11 of the last 13 seasons, including the last two years.
“This is one of those games that’s going to leave a scar,” head coach Dave Aranda said. “I don’t know if you get any lower than this.”
Aranda is also the first Baylor head coach since Guy Morriss to not reach a bowl game in his fourth year or later.
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Josh Cameron said the team is playing for personal pride after missing out on six wins.
“Fighting for the name on your back, fighting for the guys around you and really just fighting for Baylor as a whole,” Cameron said.
Redshirt junior quarterback Blake Shapen threw for 253 yards and a career-high four touchdowns to lead the Bears. Senior quarterback Will Howard was responsible for four of the Wildcats’ six offensive touchdowns, as he completed 19 of 29 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns.
Howard also scored on a 1-yard rushing TD, and he set the school record with his 45th career TD pass.
After trading touchdowns with Baylor to start the game, Kansas State opened up a 35-7 lead early in the second quarter. The Bears didn’t score again until Cameron set the squad up with good field positioning just before the end of the first half, thanks to his 70-yard punt return.
Shapen connected with freshman running back Dawson Pendergrass from 1 yard out three plays after the explosive return, and Baylor cut its deficit to 35-13 going into the tunnel. Pendergrass scored both of his receiving touchdowns in the first half.
With his two receiving touchdowns today, Dawson Pendergrass is now third on Baylor in that category and has more than every Baylor wide receiver not named Monaray Baldwin COMBINED.
— Eric Kelly (@EricKellyTV) November 11, 2023
Aranda said the early deficit was a result of the inability to execute on offense as well as a costly fumble that resulted in Kansas State points. He said it made finding success difficult moving forward.
“It was death by papercuts early in the game,” Aranda said. “And then that led to frustration. And then those paper cuts became harder and deeper and more impactful.”
The Bears scored on some trickery midway through the third quarter, as junior running back Dominic Richardson threw a backward pass to Shapen, and he launched the ball to senior tight end Drake Dabney. It marked a 63-yard TD and made it a 38-19 contest.
Dabney notched his second game with at least 100 yards of the season and his career with 105 yards on four catches. Richardson rushed for a season-high 89 yards on 17 carries.
Aranda said he liked what he saw in the running game with Richardson and that he wished it were a closer game to be able to use that more.
“If this was any form of better play on the defensive side of the ball and it was a slow game where we could run it and set up the play action pass and everything, I think that’s what we were hoping it would be, and the game got away from us,” Aranda said.
The Wildcats capitalized on the Bears’ fourth turnover of the game to give them 59 points on the game. Kansas State has scored 40 or more points in all six of its home games this season, and 59 is the most it’s dropped since putting up 55 on Kansas on Oct. 24, 2020.
Kansas State scored 50 or more points for the first time since amassing 55 versus Kansas on Oct. 24, 2020.
The Wildcats were one point away from hitting 60 points, which they haven’t done since putting up 63 on Florida Atlantic on Sept. 17, 2016.
— Michael Haag (@MichaelHaag_) November 12, 2023
Shapen led a final 10-play, 77-yard drive that ended with a touchdown by junior wide receiver Monaray Baldwin, his fourth receiving TD of the season.
Baylor will be back on the road to play TCU next Saturday at a time to be determined at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.
Aranda said the team is going to put its best foot forward to get “this taste our of our mouth.”
“We want to do something about it, and the best way to do that is to work for a win and to go out and execute and get one, so we’re all about it,” Aranda said.
*All quotes are courtesy of ESPN Central Texas 1660 AM radio