K-State opens Big 12 play against Baylor

By Brandon Starkey on September 30th, 2011

Robert Griffin III

Kansas State is coming off an impressive road win against the University of Miami (FL), in a game where the Cats were 12.5 point underdogs but were still able to shock the nation in a thrilling 28-24 victory. What was most impressive about the game was without a doubt the Wildcat defense. held Miami on four consecutive plays from the two yard-line to win the game. Last year’s unit would have allowed this fast Miami team to walk right in on first down. Not this year as Tre Walker swarmed to Jacory Harris on fourth down, sending a message to the nation: the Lynch Mob is on its way back.

It is much too early to compare this defense to any of the great defenses of past Kansas State teams, but unlike last season’s unit this defense is improving from week to week. The defensive line is faster and stronger than last season’s unit, bolstered with junior college transfers Adam Davis and Meshak Williams. But those aren’t the only improvements on the line. Senior Ray Kibble has stepped up huge for the Cats this year. Miami head coach Al Golden was very impressed with Kibble, saying Ohio State doesn’t have anyone as disruptive.

The player of the Miami game was without question Collin Klein. No, he did not put up “Tim Tebow”-like numbers, but he battled and grinded throughout the game. Whenever the team needed him, he lowered his shoulder and gained the yards they needed. Bleeding all over the field but never once giving up, Collin Klein showed the nation what it means to be a Wildcat.

Now Kansas State must face its biggest test of the young season: the . Baylor is coming in ranked #15 in the nation has the best weapon in college football, RG3, and will be looking to release him on the .

A Look at the Bears Offense

This man needs no introduction. III has put Baylor on the map. In my opinion there is no better player in college football. Andrew Luck is a bum compared to Griffin. Kellen Moore couldn’t win four games if he was the Baylor QB. Ok, that may be stretching things just a bit, but RG3 is a rare mix of speed and an insanely accurate arm. He has the potential to lead the Bears to a very successful season. Through three games RG3 has more touchdown passes than incomplete passes. What is most impressive is the fact that this isn’t a one year accuracy trait, he has been pin-point his entire career. In four years (he was injured in 2009 and received a medical redshirt) he has thrown for 7,035 yards with 54 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. RG3 has a career completion rate well over 60%.

This season he hasn’t had to run much, but when he has, he has shown how dangerous he can be. He is averaging 7.0 yards per carry and is second on the rushing charts for the bears. Last year he torched Kansas State with 404 passing yards. Surprisingly Kansas State held him to only 8 rushing yards, but the Bears were still able to hold on to a vey close win.

If Griffin goes down it is widely thought that the Bears season would go down the drain. That is not entirely true. Sure, they would suffer a little as there is no one as good as the great and powerful RG3, but luckily they have an experienced back-up in quarterback Nick Florence. He played as a freshman and put up decent numbers for the Bears (1,786 yards at a 62% completion rate, and 6 touchdown passes (9 ints)). As a junior you can expect Florence to be an improved player, but don’t expect to see him on Saturday.

Senior Terrence Gannaway has been the star stallion in Baylors stable this year averaging a solid 5.7 yards per carry. He was impressive last year in a reserve role, averaging 6.4 yards per carry throughout the season. Gannaway has reached pay dirt four times this year (three times on the ground, once through the air) and is a back not to be taken lightly.

Sophomore Glasco Martin impressed bears fans over the last two weeks gaining 60+ yards on the ground in each game on only five carries in both games. He is a dangerous back as well, but don’t expect many touches as he had zero carries against TCU.

Baylor’s #2 weapon comes from senior WR Kendall Wright. Some may argue that Wright isn’t really that talented, rather that he is just blessed to have a superstar throwing his way. I would have to completely disagree. Kendall Wright has been a major part of the Bears offense for four years. Even in the season that Griffin went down, Wright was able to snag 66 catches for 740 yards and four scores. So far this season he has 420 yards on 31 catches and 4 scores. Without a doubt he is Griffin’s favorite target.

Other targets will come from the likes of Tevin Reese, Terrence Williams, and Lanear Sampson. Combined those three receivers have 27 catches for 430 yards and 7 touchdowns. Wright isn’t Baylor’s only option through the air, but he is definitely their favorite.

The offensive line is a big, experienced unit for the Bears. Of the five starters four are seniors (OT Danny Watkins, OG John Johns, OG James Barnard, C JD Walton). The only non-senior is Junior OT Cameron Kaufhold. All the main reserves are all either juniors or seniors as well. The three tight ends on the depth chart (Justin Akers, Brad Taylor, and Andrew Judy) are all seniors as well.

Baylor on Defense

The defense for the Bears has been lacking consistency this year. In the first game of the season, the Bears defense allowed 48 points to TCU in an upset win. It was a huge win for the program, but the defense didn’t open any eyes. In week two, the Bears shut out Stephen F Austin, but the game was ended by a storm. Last week, the Rice Owls hung 31 points on the board even though the Bears went on to win the game. The offense for Baylor is very impressive and that is why this team wins games. But if Baylor wants to compete for a Big 12 title, then the defense really needs to step up and soon.

Baylor has been looking to its secondary to step up. The Bears’ two leading tacklers are junior CB Casey Chance and junior safety Mike Hicks, who have 20 tackles each, respectively. Hicks has two interceptions as well. Kansas State will mark the first real challenge for Baylor since the TCU game. If Baylor can stop the run (they have allowed 152 rushing yards per game to this point) then they might have a chance of stopping the Wildcat offense. Collin Klein did prove he has a good arm last week, but it still wasn’t as impressive as his legs. If Baylor can force him to pass and can shut down the running attack it could be a great game for the Bears.

The special teams unit for Baylor has been up and down this year. Darius Jones has shown that he is a dangerous kick returner, having already returned a kick for 55 yards. Kicker Aaron Jones is a perfect 3-3 on the year including a 48-yarder, but he has already missed two PAT’s . The punting game has also been poor for the Bears, as Spencer Roth has only averaged 36.2 yards per punt. In his defense, however, the Bears have only punted the ball four times (five if you include Griffin’s—I guess he really does everything!—39 yarder). But luckily for Baylor, Kansas State has struggled in the special teams phase of the game as well.

Conclusion

Kansas State is rolling into this game with momentum. The Cats are finding out who they are and are finally putting up some points. That being said this is the biggest test so far this season. Miami definitely had a better defense, but this Baylor offense is very explosive. If K-State wants to have any chance of stopping RG3 they will need to be able to get pressure on Griffin at all times, while constantly throwing new defensive schemes out. The Wildcats cannot afford to be conservative in this game.

3 Keys for a Wildcat Victory

  1. Confuse Griffin – I don’t think K-State should constantly blitz Griffin. He is too fast and can escape pressure very well. He makes impossible deep passes look easy. But at the same time, the Wildcats cannot let him sit around and pick apart the defense. They need to blitz when he least expects it and constantly change things up. K-State has more depth this year and it will help as they will be able to substitute for tired players, unlike last season.
  2. Answer fire with fire – The world knows what RG3 can do, but they don’t know what Kansas State’s “honey badger” can do. Last week was Collin Klein’s “welcome to the show” moment and hopefully his sequel performance will be just as good. Baylor is likely to score a lot of points, so K-State can waste no time putting points up on the board.
  3. It all lies on Hartman/Zimmerman – I have not been impressed with the Wildcat safeties this season. Both are talented players, but both have seemed to make freshman mistakes. If receivers get past the corners, it will be an easy day for Griffin to pick apart the secondary. Hartman and Zimmerman need to step up huge and make sure to finish their assignments.

The Prediction

A week ago I would have picked Baylor to win this game by two or three touchdowns. Now I’m not sure. K-State’s defense is clearly improved. Baylor shouldn’t be able to run over the Wildcats’ front seven and definitely won’t be able to pass on K-State like they have against SFA and Rice. Nevertheless, I still see this as a high-scoring game. If Klein can improve on his already impressive performance against Miami, I see things going great for Kansas State.
KSU 37 Baylor 35

The Rest of the Big 12

Texas Tech at Kansas – KU was blown away by Georgia Tech two weeks ago. It’s not surprising, and I expected it to happen, but I never could have guessed GT would hang 66 points on the Jayhawks. After seeing KU’s defense give up 66 to GT, and 45 to Northern Illinois I don’t see any reason why Tech should have trouble scoring on this team. That being said Tech struggled against Nevada and had to win in the last seconds—in Lubbock, no less. KU had a bye week to get back to the basics. I think this game has the makings of a shocker, but I think Tech will get it done. Texas Tech 44, Kansas 35

Texas at Iowa State – ISU has been the surprise team of the Big 12. I predicted them to finish 1-11, and they are 3-0. Steele Jantz has proven to be a solid replacement for Austin Arnaud, but he has been turnover prone. Texas (3-0) has played great since turning to Colt McCoy’s little brother, Case. I still think Texas gets this done and ISU is going to have a long season. In my preseason ranking of ISU I said if they were to win games it would be against UConn, Tech, and KU. I did not think about Iowa losing Adrian Claiborn or Ricky Stanzi to the NFL. But the Iowa game was still an impressive win and the Cyclones deserve respect. They won’t lay down and die against Texas, but Texas should win. Texas 20, Iowa State 10

Arkansas at Texas A&M – Not going to waste time on traitors. Arkansas wins 7,000,000 to who cares #GOBIG12 (reality: aTm wins 27-13)

Ball State at Oklahoma – Ball State has been impressive this year winning 3 games. Sadly they are playing the #2 (formerly #1) team in the nation. Laundry Jones is going to mop up the cardinal D. OU played poorly against Missouri last week and it cost them a spot in the rankings. They will not make that mistake again. Oklahoma 51, Ball State 9