For the second straight week, the K-State Wildcats lost a game they should’ve won.
Coming off a 33-29 loss to Oklahoma State, the Wildcats fell to the No. 15 Baylor Bears on Saturday 35-25 despite leading the game 25-21 going into the fourth quarter.
Despite the loss, the Wildcats showed tremendous signs of growth and improvement against the nation’s best offense.
“I was really pleased with the effort of our football team,” head football coach Bill Snyder said. “With one exception in the entirety of the ballgame, I thought we played as hard as we have at any time during the course of the year. We played as physical as we have at any point and time during the year.”
The Wildcats saw the most improvement in their ability to pick up yards on the ground. K-State racked up 327 rushing yards, led by sophomore quarterback Daniel Sams who had 199 yards and three touchdowns.
“Here is a guy who is trying to make a play and that is what he does,” Snyder said. “He makes plays, and again it goes back to the discipline of making the right decisions at the right times. I have never faulted his effort, I could never fault his effort.”
Much of the success that K-State had on the ground can be attributed to the offensive line, which easily had its best game of the year.
“It was a good day for us on the ground and we executed well up front,” junior center B.J. Finney said. “We wanted to play great. We wanted to make a point, show that we are improving, and the only way to do that is show them on Saturday, to show how much we want it.”
Defensively, the Wildcats forced Baylor into six punts on the day. The Bears only had seven total in their previous four games.
“Obviously third down is a huge down, and we definitely want to get off the field.” said K-State senior linebacker Blake Slaughter, who led the Wildcats with nine tackles in the game. “I think emphasizing it more in practice has been huge. Just doing stuff like yelling, ‘It’s third down,’ in practice and getting guys excited about that down and to focus in more. I think it has been better.”
Junior defensive end Ryan Mueller had one of the best games any defensive player for the Wildcats has had all season. He sacked Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty twice and also stripped Petty and recovered the ball in one of the biggest highlight reel plays of the year.
“The one thing that was probably a little different was he played with greater discipline,” Snyder said. “I said this last week, nobody plays or practices harder than Ryan Mueller, nobody. Last week, he made a gargantuan mental error and you can play hard but you have got to have the ability to make the right decision and do the right things. I think he did that today. I thought he played very, very well in all aspects of the game today.”
But the Wildcats still made their mistakes, which ultimately cost them the game. K-State junior defensive back Randall Evans had a personal foul on the opening drive of the game that extended a Baylor possession. Daniel Sams also threw an interception with the Wildcats trailing by just three points late in the fourth quarter.
“We made four mistakes defensively in the first half of the ballgame and those cost us 21 points,” Snyder said. “I thought, considering who we played, we played awfully well defensively. Like we said in Tuesday’s press conference, Baylor was a big-play offense and you cannot afford to give up the big plays. If you take away their big plays, it is a different ballgame. But by the same token, you cannot turn the ball over. We only turned it over one time, which was an improvement, but it came at a bad time, quite obviously. Again, I do not fault our effort. We just have to keep trying to get better.”
K-State has a bye week this week before returning to Bill Snyder Family Stadium in two weeks to face the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Sean Frye is a senior in electronic journalism. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org