How the Wildcats Beat the Bears

3 Oct

The consensus among the Baylor Bears after losing 36-35 to Kansas State on Saturday night was that the Wildcats did not beat them as much as they beat themselves. That’s a common refrain among teams. It’s not necessarily an inaccurate one, depending on the situation, but this time I disagree with the assessment.

Give credit where credit is due: Kansas State – and its defense in particular – bent but did not break and consequently defeated Baylor.

Going into the matchup, junior quarterback and early Heisman candidate Robert Griffin III had 13 touchdowns and 12 incompletions. His offensive line had allowed only three sacks over the course of three games. He throws 30- and 40-yard passes as effortlessly and accurately as if they were little dinks to the sideline. Throughout his career, his touchdown-to-interception ratio is nearly 5:1 – 59 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and he holds 42 records at Baylor. This season in particular, his numbers just boggle the mind.

Yet the Wildcats sacked Griffin five times and hurried him into eight incompletions and an interception. He still passed for 346 yards and five touchdowns, so if this were any other quarterback, the conversation would be what a fantastic game he had. It was a great performance, but it wasn’t enough.

In my opinion, that’s much more of a reflection on Kansas State than it is on Griffin.

The Wildcats got past the Bears’ hulking veteran offensive line and snuffed Griffin out time and time again. They pressured on him, and while he still completed the vast majority of his passes, he looked a bit rattled. At one point he fumbled without being touched by anyone.

Even though he torched the secondary for four touchdown passes of more than 30 yards each, he and Baylor as a whole could not cash in on their longest possession of the game, when they spent almost twice their usual drive time (about four minutes) getting down the field only to miss a field goal.

For the final piece of evidence that 1) the Wildcats contained the Bears and 2) the Kansas State defense is a whole different animal from last season, consider this. Last year, Baylor hung a school-record 638 yards of offense on the Wildcats. In this year’s game, they only amassed 429.

For some reason, no one wants to admit that this Kansas State defense has some serious heart and even some pretty impressive talent. People were skeptical as the team went to Miami, as the team returned to face Baylor, and some are questioning even now, with Missouri coming in this weekend. I’m not sure what will convince everyone that this is a good defense … except, of course, one more win.

But really, that’s okay, because that’s all coach Bill Snyder wants his team thinking about anyway.

For more conversation about Kansas State and Baylor, check out my appearance on the Pulse Network with Tyler Pyburn.

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