Know Your Opponent: The fight for second place

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Wildcat defense takes down Baylor's wide receiver. KSU played Baylor on Nov. 20, 2021, at Bill Snyder Stadium. (Archive photo by Madison Riebel | Collegian Media Group)

No. 19 K-State (6-3) (4-2)

The Wildcats face the Baylor Bears after nearly pulling off a 21-point comeback against Texas. The offense and defense each had struggles in the first half of the game. While the offense threw a late interception and missed a fourth down conversion, the defense couldn’t manage to stop the Longhorn rushing attack, allowing 31 points in the first half. Both sides of the ball regrouped after halftime: the offense flourished off of scramble plays and the defense held Texas to three points in the final half. The offense has yet to find a balanced attack that allows the run and pass game to flourish simultaneously. Meanwhile, the defense has struggled in allowing star running backs to break loose in the open field. These issues will play a big role for K-State against Baylor, and addressing them may hold the key to victory.

Baylor (6-3) (4-2)

The Bears come into their game against K-State on a three-game winning streak, led by a heavy rushing attack and creating turnovers on the defensive side of the ball. Running backs true freshman Richard Reese and juniors Qualan Jones and Craig Williams have all contributed, as the team has run for 785 yards the past three games. The Bears’ defensive unit has seen up and down production this season. Their ability to stop the rushing game has consistently been an issue, especially against quarterbacks with styles similar to Martinez. The secondary recently provided a boost, collecting eight interceptions in their last two games — the most in a two-game span in 42 years for Baylor. Capturing an interception could swing the game against the Wildcats in favor of the Bears.

 

Matchup to Watch: Adrian Martinez vs. Baylor Secondary

The passing game has not been a consistent focus with Martinez under center. While the offense favors runs, the game against Texas showed how the Wildcats may have to pass more to finish the season strong. Martinez nearly led K-State to a comeback through his ability to make plays in the air, throwing for 329 yards — his career-high as a Wildcat. He excelled at extending plays out of the pocket and finding receivers roaming away from their defenders. His one crucial mistake came late in the first half, when he threw an interception that helped Texas extend their lead. Baylor’s secondary hasn’t shut offenses down, but they have become ball hawks swarming for interceptions.

The Baylor secondary collected five interceptions against Texas Tech and three against Oklahoma in their past two games. For the majority of the season, the secondary’s aggressive play has led to opposing quarterbacks finding holes in their defense. However, the last two games have shown a major improvement. Securing eight interceptions and allowing just 420 passing yards in the past two games highlights the unit’s potential. In hopes of taking down the No. 19 ranked Wildcats, the Bears could focus on snagging one Martinez pass to turn the tides. If the Bears are able to hold down the K-State passing game, it will be up to the legs of Martinez and running back Deuce Vaughn to win the day.

 

Key Players

K-State:

Linebacker Austin Moore

Running Back Deuce Vaughn

Baylor:

Safety Christian Morgan

Running Back Richard Reese

 

Prediction: K-State 31-30

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