Call it the infamous Sports Illustrated cover jinx, the highly stressful and often toxic pressure of having a No. 1 target on your back, or the perils of life on the road in the Big 12 against a good football team playing at its best. Any way you analyze it, it spelled doom for Kansas State on Saturday night against a Baylor team that had one only one win in conference this season before this past weekend, and all but ended the Wildcats’ dream of playing for its first national championship in football.
It took coach Bill Snyder’s Wildcats, once called the worst team in college football, 11 weeks to climb to the top of the college football world, but only a little over three hours to get toppled from the top rung and knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten. Snyder’s bunch, which can do no worse than a tie and can win outright its third-ever conference crown and second in the Big 12 era with a victory over Texas in the Cats home finale on Dec. 1, did something on Saturday that it hasn’t all season: They beat themselves with uncharacteristic mistakes and a defense that leaked badly amid a series of injuries to key defensive personnel.
Kansas State gave up 580 yards of offense, 342 of it on the ground, as Baylor moved up and down the field with relative ease, pouring 52 points on a previously dominant K-State defense that had given up an average of only 17 points to its 10 previous opponents. It was small consolation that the nation’s No. 2 team, Oregon, went down to defeat on the same night. The Wildcats’ 52-24 loss to Baylor dropped them from the top rung in the BCS to No. 7 in this week’s poll.
“This one stings, and it should,” said Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein, until this past weekend, the front runner for this year’s Heisman Trophy. “We weren’t able to do what we wanted to.” Credit a surprising Baylor defense that coming into Saturday’s game was statistically one of the worst in the country, giving up more than 500 yards of offense and nearly 40 points a game. Kansas State managed only 362 yards against the Bears, and Klein was guilty of throwing three interceptions, as many as he had thrown in the Wildcats first 10 games.
Baylor defensive back Joe Williams, who picked off two of Collin Klein’s three interceptions and recorded 11 tackles (nine unassisted), was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for his stellar performance against Kansas State.
Snyder, who rarely shows a lot of outward emotion, win or lose, felt his team’s pain but was very anxious afterwards to turn the page, regroup and get his team focused on what still lies ahead. The Kansas State coach prefers to look for the positives, despite the outcome. “Get it behind us, and move on,” he said following Saturday’s disappointing loss. “They still have the opportunity to do some tremendous things.”
From the tone of Snyder’s voice, this might prove to be an even stronger incentive for the Wildcats in their final game with Texas than would have been the case had they still been undefeated and ranked No. 1 going into the regular season finale. Chances are very good that we’ll see a much different K-State team on Dec. 1.
Elsewhere in the conference over the weekend, second-place Oklahoma led most of the way at West Virginia, but had to come from behind in the final two minutes to eek out a one-point 50-49 win and remain mathematically alive for a share of the conference title.
The Sooners came into the game with one of the top defenses in the conference, but couldn’t find a way to stop West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, who moved to the tailback position for this game and rolled up a school-record 344 rushing yards, breaking out for long runs practically every time he touched the ball in the second half, including two touchdowns. As outstanding as Austin was in this game, OU’s senior signal caller Landry Jones was just a little better, passing for an Oklahoma school record 554 yards and six touchdowns, also a school record.
Kansas, decked out in all black uniforms and white helmets in an effort to shake things up and hopefully shake off the curse that had led to 18 consecutive Big 12 losses, ran into a buzz saw and a tenacious offensive show by visiting Iowa State as the Cyclones became the seventh Big 12 team to become bowl eligible this season. The Cyclones recorded their sixth win of the season against five losses in a 51-24 victory over the cellar-dwelling Jayhawks.
In the only other game in the conference on Saturday (Texas and TCU had byes), Oklahoma State got an outstanding effort from wide-receiver Isaiah Anderson, who hauled in four passes for 174 yards and three touchdowns, including TD catch-and-runs of 66 and 60 yards in a 59-21 victory over Texas Tech. The Cowboys ran their record to 7-3 on the season and 6-2 in the Big 12 heading into the Bedlam Series with in-state archrival Oklahoma on Saturday.
Now for some other fascinating facts from Saturday’s games in the Big 12:
Five things we learned from Week 12 in Big 12 football
- Kansas State’s 28-point loss to Baylor tied for the largest margin of defeat by a BCS No. 1 team. The Wildcats were also involved in the other 28-point defeat by a BCS top-ranked team. K-State defeated No. 1-ranked Oklahoma for the Big 12 championship in 2003.
- Kansas State was forced out of its comfort zone offensively on Saturday and forced to the passing game much more often than the Wildcats would have preferred. As a result, Collin Klein set school and career records with 50 pass attempts and 27 completions.
- In Oklahoma’s two losses this season, Kansas State and Notre Dame combined for 769 yards of offense. West Virginia exploded for 778 yards in a losing effort again st the Sooners on Saturday.
- Kansas senior D.J. Bashears exceeded 2,000 yards in career kick-return yardage on Saturday, the second most in school history.
- West Virginia’s Tavon Austin recorded 572 all-purpose yards in a 50-49 loss to then-12th-ranked (BCS) Oklahoma. That was six yards shy of the Football Bowl Subdivision single-game record;
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