Wildcats look for statement win against No. 11 ranked Baylor

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K-State and Baylor line up prior to a play in the latest home meeting for K-State between the two teams in 2019. (Archive photo by Dalton Wainscott | Collegian Media Group)

Coming off an all-around dominating performance against West Virginia, the Kansas State football team (7-3, 4-3 Big 12) prepares to take on its toughest test since a month against No. 11 Baylor (8-2, 5-2 Big 12) on Senior Night.

The Wildcats used the win against West Virginia to prove that its now four-game win streak isn’t a fluke — and that K-State has the talent and drive to play with the best in the conference.

The Mountaineers aren’t necessarily at the top of the Big 12, but the way K-State won — offense/defense/special teams – showed that the Wildcats might have pieced everything together. K-State head coach Chris Klieman shared his happiness for the big win after the game.

“We’re so excited for the guys and for the coaches,” Klieman said. “We’ve got a really fun group to be around right now. And whether it’s in meeting rooms like in here or out in the practice field or at the hotel, we got a bunch of guys, I believe, that love each other, a bunch of guys that challenge each other to be great every day.”

Star sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn had a good day against the Mountaineers with 121 yards and a touchdown, which might not be huge numbers for Deuce’s standards, but still a good day for most running backs. Still, Vaughn was eager to express how much the team has been working over the past month after the three-game losing streak earlier this year.

“We tell each other we have to go 1-0 every day so we can go 1-0 on Saturday,” Vaughn said. “We’ve been doing that for the past month, and the success and everything that has come from that is really, really cool to see.”

Defensively, it seems as if teams have finally gotten the drift about how good sophomore defensive lineman Felix Anudike-Uzomah has been this year. The nation’s forced-fumbles leader was often seen double-teamed against the Mountaineers. “King” Felix still recorded a forced fumble, even with the extra attention. Plus, his double-teaming allowed other players, like junior Daniel Green, sophomore Nate Matlack and senior Eli Huggins to join in on the sack fun.

“I think that the biggest thing for us is confidence right now,” senior linebacker Cody Fletcher said, who recorded an interception in the game against WVU. “We keep winning games and keep getting more and more confidence. I think another big thing is that the more we play this defense, we get more comfortable with it, which is the biggest thing for us.”

Baylor will sport perhaps the best resume of any Big 12 team this year, although the chances of any team in the conference making the College Football Playoff is slim-to-none. Coming off a big win against then-ranked No. 8 Oklahoma, the Bears have only lost to Oklahoma State and TCU, but also feature wins against Iowa State and BYU.

Baylor is led by junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon and senior running back Abram Smith, with Smith having a breakout season with 1,203 rushing yards after only recording 12 total attempts during the rest of his time in Waco, Texas. The tandem has joined forces to put up a whopping 35.4 points per game, while the defense has only allowed 19.9 points per contest.

For more on the Baylor Bears, look out for the Collegian’s “Know Your Opponent” article this week.

Here’s what else to look out for against Baylor:

ACTUAL Records to Break

I’ve been lying to you guys…

I’ll admit to bad journalism – I have been staring at Skylar Thompson’s stats before the season started when, in earlier previews, I’ve stated how close Thompson is to breaking some all-time records. After adding his numbers this year, Thompson is already sitting second in all-time passing yards and is a touchdown away from second all-time in passing touchdowns as well. With the win against West Virginia, Thompson also became the winningest quarterback at K-State since 1990.

Deuce Vaughn also has some records to break this weekend, as he is 13 rushing yards away from 1,000 on the season and 73 receiving yards away from 500 on the season, which would make him the fourth player in Big 12 history to accomplish that feat in a single season. Vaughn is also one of two players in the NCAA this year to amass over 100 scrimmage yards every game.

Senior Night

Skylar Thompson’s FOR-REAL final home game will take place this Saturday in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. What does this mean for the game, though? Will a large crowd turn out in support? Will Klieman play some seniors and rely less on his star players? Will Thompson light up in his career home-finale?

This might be a big game for the defense as well — as the secondary — who have become well-loved by Manhattan since getting to campus. Guys like Reggie Stubblefield, Ross Elder and Jahron McPherson will have one last game in front of the home crowd.

Playing Spoiler

K-State has the opportunity to play the villain against Baylor, as Baylor is primed for a spot in the Big 12 Championship game if they win out and Oklahoma State can take down Oklahoma. If the Wildcats can pull off the win on Saturday, Baylor’s chances pretty much plummet.

Is it fair for Baylor? Should K-State let them have it? Doesn’t matter: the Bears shouldn’t have lost against TCU that put them on the outside looking in. Now, K-State has the chance to win a big game and push their winning streak to five.

Big Game Winner

With as good of a year as K-State has had, the biggest knock against them is the team’s record against top opponents. Sitting at 7-3, the Wildcat’s record is great, but the three losses all came to ranked teams, while all the wins have been against lesser opponents.

Can K-State turn that record around on Saturday and finally get a statement win? We will just have to find out.

Catch K-State take on Baylor at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 20, inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The game will air on Fox Sports 1, with a recap and analysis on the Collegian after the game.

Baylor is currently favored by one point, with the over/under set at 50 points.

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