May 24, 2024

Wildcats rout Bears and move to four-way tie in Big 12 standings

Kansas State Wildcats Football

Kansas State running back DJ Giddens (31) celebrates with teammates after catching a 31-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter against Baylor Saturday November 11, 2023 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

MANHATTAN, Kan. — After they lost an overtime thriller in Austin in week nine, the Wildcats came out on a mission Saturday, and completely demolished an inferior Bear team.

Kansas State’s 59-25 victory over Baylor was pure domination in all three phases of the game. It was also the most points the Wildcats have scored since September of 2016, which is a span of 90 games. Kansas State drew first blood, never trailed throughout the afternoon, and scored 21 points in the first quarter.

Coach Chris Klieman thought his players were highly motivated for the game, and made a statement. It was obvious that the Wildcats took out their frustration on a Bear team that beat them at home in 2021. This time around was a completely different story though. Kansas State (7-3) led Baylor in total offense, first downs and yards per play.

Klieman was glad to see that it took a complete team effort that resulted in the lopsided affair. He was able to get reps for several young players too, which should benefit down the road.

“You never really felt like the game was in hand because of how fast their tempo and many plays they were running,” Klieman said. “But it was fun to see a lot of guys make plays on special teams, offense and defense, we had a lot of guys contribute.”

Quarterback Will Howard had a notable day to say the least. The senior completed 19 of his 29 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns. Not to mention Howard became the program’s all-time leader in career touchdown passes. Klieman loved the way Howard commanded the huddle, and made others around him better. The rest of the offense fed off Howard’s energy, and Baylor’s defense couldn’t do anything to stop the bleeding.

“It’s fun to see us having that much confidence in throwing the football too,” he said. “That’s been good, our protection has been pretty good, these guys did what we thought, they were going to blitz us, they made some plays blitzing us, and we made them pay a few times.”

Coach Dave Aranda tried to pull out all the stops though, from trick plays, to fourth down attempts. However, none of the risks generated much success. Running back DJ Giddens rushed for a game-high, 117 yards, and caught an 18-yard touchdown pass. It was the third time this season that Giddens eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards. Which is why Klieman feels the best is yet to come for the sophomore.

“He ran hard, and he’s getting better,” the 56-year old coach said. “We knew he was going to continue to get better the more snaps he got.”

Wideout Phillip Brooks finished with a team-high, five catches. Tight ends Ben Sinnott and Garrett Oakley each hauled in a touchdown pass. Defensively the Wildcats were tenacious, and smothered the Bears’ offense. Baylor (3-7) rushed for 85 yards, and only averaged four per play.

Although Khalid Duke got ejected for a scuffle with a Baylor player, Kansas State made a ton of plays on defense, and caused four turnovers. Linebacker Desmond Purnell returned a fumble 15 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Cornerback Keenan Garber returned an interception 45 yards for a score.

Purnell finished with a team-high, five tackles. Edge rusher Cody Stufflebean put Baylor quarterback Blake Shapen to the turf twice. Safety Colby McCallister also tallied a sack. Kicker Chris Tenant even got in on the action, and nailed a 33-yard field goal.

With the win the Wildcats are now in a four-way tie for second place in the Big 12 standings. Kansas State still has to go through Kansas and Iowa State, plus both of those teams are already bowl bound. Klieman understands there’s still a lot of football left to be played, and he wants his squad to finish strong down the stretch.

“I don’t know how the race will shakeout, but we just got to keep playing, and that’s all we can do, because this is a really good league, it has parity, and it’s deep.”