Daniel Sams high-stepped his way to the best statistical game of his young career. Ryan Mueller emphatically pumped his fists while making big defensive plays. And a sellout crowd backed Kansas State with all the noise it could ask for.
Those were the images that filled Snyder Family Stadium for much of a sunny fall afternoon Saturday, a welcome change for a team coming off back-to-back road losses. But the final result left the Wildcats feeling the same way they have most of this season — deflated.
Baylor held on and beat K-State 35-25 in front of 52,803 fans, taking its first road victory of the season and its first win ever in Manhattan. The performance validated the Bears’ hot start and extended the Wildcats’ losing streak.
For both sides, it was a new path to a familiar end.
The No. 15 Bears, 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the Big 12, didn’t win as easily as they usually do. They entered the game averaging 70.5 points and 779.5 yards. Each of their victories came in blowout fashion, with the outcomes decided at halftime. That wasn’t the case here.
“Our football team knew how the season has gone,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “Everything has been fairly simple, and everything has been in our favor playing at home and catching everybody at a good time. We knew that it would be a very tough environment. We came up here two years ago in the same situation and did not get away with the win. We came up here, faced a lot of adversity and we got a tough win on the road. I think that shows the direction of our program.”
The Wildcats, 2-4 and 0-3, challenged the Bears, holding them to fewer than half their average point output and limiting them to 451 yards. It was a game at halftime, and K-State took a 25-21 lead into the fourth quarter.
In many ways, K-State played its finest game. Sams, a sophomore quarterback, rushed for 199 yards and three touchdowns. Mueller, a defensive end, made big play after big play. He came up with two sacks and seven tackles while also stripping the ball from Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty for a must-see highlight. It simply wasn’t enough.
“I thought we played as hard as we have at any time during the course of the year,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “We played as physical as we have at any point and time during the year. I think at the end of the day it comes down to mistakes … We just have to keep trying to get better.”
The biggest mistakes came in K-State’s secondary on long passing plays and in K-State’s offense in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats held Petty to 13 completions in 22 attempts, but he threw for 342 yards by beating the Wildcats deep for three long touchdowns. The first came on a 93-yard pass to Tevin Reese in which Reese got past Randall Evans and outran everyone to the end zone by 10 yards. The second came when Antwan Goodley slipped past a host of K-State defenders for a 72-yard catch-and-run. Then, in the fourth quarter Baylor took the lead for good when cornerback Carl Miles and safety Dante Barnett let Reese behind them for a 54-yard strike.
Those big plays negated an otherwise solid defensive effort, which held Baylor to 15 first downs, forced a turnover and a blocked punt on special teams.
“We kept them in front of us except for those four plays,” said senior safety Ty Zimmerman, who added Glasco Martin’s clinching 21-yard touchdown run to the list. “We are going to have to look at the film and correct what we need to correct. You just can’t do that in big games if you want to win.”
Added Evans: “The frustrating part is that we really should have won the game. That was a gimmie game. We are way better than that.”
K-State certainly can make the argument that it is better than its record. It has possessed a fourth-quarter lead in three of its losses and had two opportunities to make things interesting late against Texas. But it’s not an argument the Wildcats want to make.
They once again had their chances against the Bears, but couldn’t make plays when they mattered most. They appear more focused on changing that scenario.
“We just have to find a way to win these games,” wide receiver Curry Sexton said. “We have got to stop making the mistakes that kill us.”
On Saturday, they appeared on their way to victory when they dominated the third quarter and took a 25-21 lead on a 1-yard run from Sams. K-State held Baylor to one first down in the third quarter, blocked a punt, forced a fumble and held the ball for all but a few moments. It was in control.
Then Reese slipped by K-State defenders for his final touchdown and gave Baylor a 28-25 lead with 14:33 remaining. That evened the momentum, but the Wildcats still had two more shots. The first ended in failure when Jack Cantele missed a 41-yard field goal. The second was thwarted when Sams threw an interception while trying to hit tight end Zach Trujillo 20 yards up field near the right sideline.
Baylor then handed the ball to Martin until he scored a game-clinching touchdown.
Sams limited his turnovers a week after losing four against Oklahoma State, but he has now thrown crucial interceptions at the end of consecutive games.
Moving past those errors is something he will have to learn from during an upcoming bye week.
“I’m not playing to have major stats and see where I can cement myself in K-Stat history, I am playing to win,”Sams said. “It was a good game or whatever —199 yards — but at the end of the day everybody wants to win. We didn’t get it done … I put this on me. I’ve got to finish.”