The Kansas State Wildcats fought back from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit on Saturday, scoring 10 points in the final five-and-a-half minutes and coming up with key defensive stops down the stretch to secure a 36-35 victory over the No. 15 Baylor Bears. The effort marked the second consecutive game that K-State pieced together a fourth-quarter comeback. The key? "Just keep playing," Coach Bill Snyder said. "Just keep sawing wood. Just keep rowing the boat."
The mantra held true, and again, in part, thanks to a defense that recovered from taking some lumps to make big plays. "This is what we always ask for," linebacker Tre Walker said. "For it to be in the defense's hands to win the game. That's how we always want it."
While it was Walker who made the game's biggest plays a week ago, newcomer Arthur Brown took control against Baylor. It was Brown who came up with an interception when the Bears had possession and a 35-33 lead with five-and-a-half minutes remaining. It was Brown who -- on the first play after Anthony Cantele converted the field goal that put the Wildcats ahead 36-35 -- chased down Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III in the backfield for a 3-yard loss. Two plays later, Brown wrangled running back Terrance Ganaway two yards short of a first down, leaving Baylor with a final fourth-and-two, do-or-die scenario. One Jordan Voelker pass breakup later, the Wildcats had the ball and the imminent victory.
As for Brown's impact? According to his teammates, it was nothing surprising. Perhaps Brown's take on sawing wood. "That's just Arthur," safety Tysyn Hartman said, "Making plays."
"The real value is that he has that old adage: a nose for the football," Snyder said. "He knows how to find it and goes and gets it."
Brown, not one to shoulder the achievements as an individual, said the continued late-game efforts from the defense could shape their identity. "That was a big stand for our defense," Brown, who led the Wildcats with eight tackles, said. "A great opportunity against a great team and really just a chance to identify who we are as a defense. My energy from that last play came from me seeing enjoyment from my team."
Though the Wildcat defense came out on top, Griffin and company put up a worthy fight. The Heisman Candidate quarterback led the Bears (3-1, 0-1) to the end zone in just one minute and 48 seconds to open the game. The Wildcats responded with 13 consecutive points of their own, but Griffin pushed Baylor back ahead, 14-13 with another one-minute, 48-second scoring drive to open the second quarter. All told, Griffin passed for 346 yards and five touchdowns. "(Griffin's) every bit of what he's been broadcast to be," Snyder said.
On the receiving end of many of Griffin's shots downfield was Kendall Wright, who set a Baylor single-game record with 201 receiving yards.
"(Griffin) is a great player, but we won," said Chris Harper, the Wildcats leading receiver with six receptions and one touchdown. "That could give us a lot of national attention. I think people are going to start taking notice."
In that manner, the fight continued. Baylor, owner of the Big 12's top offense, worked with no huddles and the sort of offensive pace that had stat keepers struggling to keep up. Meanwhile, the Wildcats controlled the clock, working their ground game not only to push the ball steadily downfield, but also to make sure the defense had time to breathe. The Wildcats controlled the football for 38 minutes and 47 seconds of the 60-minute game clock, compiling 356 total yards along the way.
Klein led the way for the Wildcats (4-0, 1-0), passing for 146 and a pair of scores and adding 113 yards on the ground. He opened the second half with a 63-yard carry that resulted from being flushed from the pocket. Two plays later, running back Angelo Pease found a hole on the right side to scored from 12-yards out and give the Wildcats at 26-21 lead.
"He did a great job of keeping plays alive," Baylor coach Art Briles said of Klein. "He really did."
"He demonstrated amazing toughness," Snyder said of Klein. "The ability not to get rattled is a great asset. He is a quality leader and people respond to him."
Baylor responded immediately, driving 60 yards in just over a minute to retake the lead. The Bears pushed their advantage to nine points when, facing a fourth-and-five situation, Griffin found a diving Wright for a 35-yard touchdown.
The Wildcats cut the Baylor lead to two, 35-33, when Klein pushed into the end zone on a one-yard quarterback sneak with 5:43 left in the game. Klein's score capped a 13-play, 70-yard drive.
Undefeated with a win over a ranked opponent, the Wildcats now enter a week of preparation for another nationally televised conference game, this time against Missouri. Where to begin? "Keep rowing the boat. We'll do tomorrow what we did the Sunday before."