Brian Graham, KC SportsNation
MANHATTAN—Kansas State was two minutes from losing to FCS Eastern Kentucky, a goalline stand away from losing to Miami and trailed by nine in the fourth quarter to Baylor…and they won them all.
Not even a career day from Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright and another spectacular day in what has become commonplace from quarterback Robert Griffin was enough for Baylor to get its first-ever Big 12-opening win.
Griffin threw for 346 yards and five touchdowns and Wright hauled in 201 yards on nine catches and two highlight reel touchdowns, but were held scoreless on their last three possessions as Kansas State railed from a 35-26 fourth quarter deficit for a 36-35 win Saturday.
Wright had caught three TD’s on the day.
Kansas State (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) managed to do something no one else has been able to do all year: slow down Griffin. Griffin was off to a historic start to his senior season as Baylor’s signal-caller, with more touchdown (13) than incompletions (12) through the air after three games, continued his pace in the first half Saturday. At halftime Griffin had three touchdowns and four incompletions and was tied up at 16 touchdowns and 16 incompletions. Baylor’s scoring drives were all under two minutes, 39 seconds, but threw his first interception of the season late in the fourth quarter, and it essentially was the demise of Baylor (3-1, 0-1 Big 12).
Linebacker Arthur Brown had his best game as a Wildcat, intercepting Griffin moments after quarterback Colin Klein’s 1-yard touchdown run pulled Kansas State within 35-33, leading to Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week Anthony Cantele’s third field goal of the game, a 31-yarder with 3:10 left, to give the Cats their winning margin.
Cantele made three field goals to earn Special Teams Player of the Week in consecutive weeks.
Griffin put on a show early in the game, leading Baylor down the field in less than two minutes to grab a 7-0 lead with a 5-yard pass to Jared Monk. Kansas State answered with 13 straight points – three scoring drives, aided by a Baylor fumble – with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Colin Klein to running back John Hubert and two field goals from Cantele. Griffin continued to answer. Griffin hit Wright with a highlight real catch and 43-yard run touchdown where Wright broke a tackle, made a guy miss and tight-roped down the sideline for a touchdown to give Baylor a 14-13 lead 1:20 into the second quarter. Griffin hits Tevin Reese for a 42-yard bomb 10 minutes later to give Baylor a 21-13 lead. Kansas State comes back to score o Klein’s second TD pass, a 24-yarder to Chris Harper with 1:37 left in the first half to make it 21-19 when Bill Snyder elected to chase a point and go for two, interesting decision in a the first half of a game that hinted at a lot of scoring. Klein, who passed for 146 yards and two touchdowns (1 interception) and rushed for another 113 yards and a his touchdown, set-up Angelo’s Pease’s first career touchdown (12-yard run) with a 63-yard run, in a quick three-play drive to begin the second half, giving K-State a 26-21 lead. The Cats wouldn’t score again until Klein’s 1-yard run with 5:43 remaining in the game. Griffin retaliated the Cats quick score with a two-play drive and back-to-back TD passes to Wright – 34 and 35 yards, respectively to give Baylor a 35-26 lead. After an interception, Baylor converted two fourth down’s, but Aaron Jones missed a field goal, then threw an interception and turned it over on downs to cap the Cats rally.
This week, Kansas State host Missouri (2-2, 0-1) on ABC at 2:30 and Baylor hosts Iowa State (3-1, 0-1), a blowout loser to Texas last week.
I refuse to give the offense an A until they do something throwing the ball. But they are doing something right, coming from behind to win three games already this year. They do enough to win games and you can’t complain with that. The ball control, manage the game offense was enough to keep Baylor’s offense off the field (Not that it mattered as Baylor’s five scoring drives were all under two and a half minutes).
Quarterback: Colin Klein B+
Klein made some mistakes in the first half and he threw a second half interception, but he was nails in the fourth quarter. Klein is tough. Real tough. He takes some hits and keeps on coming. Klein took three bad sacks, one which turned a chip shot field goal into a long one, which was missed by Anthony Cantele, and pitched an option out of bounds and missed several open receivers, finishing 13-of-28, but made some big plays when needed. Klein rushed for 113 yards, none more important than a 1-yard touchdown with 5:43 left with the Cats facing 35-26 deficit. Klein also set-up K-State’s first second half score with a 63-yard run on the first play of the half, setting up Angelo Pease’s 12-yard run two plays later, giving Kansas State a 26-21 lead. Klein’s 1-yard plunge late in the fourth cut the score to 35-33. Klein missed on more passes (15) than he completed (13), but threw two big first half scoring passes, a 24-yarder to Chris Harper with under two minutes left in the first half to pull within 21-19, and a 15-yarder to running back John Hubert to tie the game at 7-all in the first quarter. Klein is averaging 105 yards per game on the ground, fourth in the Big 12, and second nationally as a quarterback.
Running Backs: C+
Kansas State rushed for 210 yards on 51 carries (4.2 yards per carry), but more than half that yardage came from the quarterback. Hubert, who had a big game at Miami with 166 yards, only gained 57 yards on 16 carries, but had a big receiving touchdown in the first quarter and finished with 47 yards receiving in three carries, giving him under 100 total yards for the game. Pease scored his first career touchdown and gained 33 yards on five carries. The Cats will need a little bit better production out of their running backs in conference play or Klein will get killed before the season is over…and Bryce Brown is still MIA.
Wide Receivers: B-
It is hard to judge the receiving core of a team that averages 120 passing yards a game. Chris Harper hauled in six passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. He is a physical specimen and is K-State’s #1 receiver. He also may be the only legitimate WR Kansas State has.
Offensive Line: B-
The Cats rushed for 210 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. On the downside, Klein was sacked three times, but one could argue Klein got himself sacked. It all starts up front for the Cats, who want to control the clock and the game with a pounding, physical ground attack. If the line struggles, so will the Cats.
I can’t give an A to a defense that allowed five scoring drives that were less tha 2:39. Robert Griffin tore up the Wildcats defense, but K-State held Baylor scoreless for the final 21 minutes of the game, leading to the Cats rally. Arthur Brown was all over the field, sideline to sideline, and had two huge plays in the fourth quarter, intercepting Griffin setting up the Anthony Cantele’s go-ahead field goal. Brown, who was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week, also sacked Griffin on the final drive of the game. Baylor’s 429 yards offense was a season low and the Bears final three drives were scoreless. The Cats got it done when the game was on the line…again.
Special Teams: B
Cantele won the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week for the second week in a row. Cantele missed a 46-yard field goal in the second quarter, but made 3-of-4, including a 31-yarder with 3:10 left in the game, 2:30 after Klein’s TD narrowed the gap to two points, to give the Cats a 36-35 lead.
Bill Snyder does it again. Somehow, someway, the Cats won a game, for the second week in a row when they were clearly outclassed in talent. I wasn’t a fan of Snyder chasing a point in the first half with a two-point conversion attempt, down 21-19, but other than that, I can’t complain too much. Snyder again had his team in the game late, and his team found a way to win. Kansas State is clearly the surprise story of the Big 12 so far. Most of the credit goes to Snyder. The 4-0 start is Snyder’s 10th at Kansas State.
Final Thoughts: I don’t know how Kansas State does it. Saturday when Missouri comes to Manhattan, will mark the third game in a row where the team on the other sideline has more talent than the Cats. Can Bill Snyder, a vastly improved defense and Colin Klein continue to ride the momentum of back-to-back wins as underdogs, or are things going to even out? The Cats, now ranked 20th in the nation will be a home underdog this week.
Read more about K-State’s win here: K-State 36-35 over Griffin, Baylor.