Conventional wisdom said that Baylor, even with a freshman quarterback starting in place of the injured Seth Russell, would steamroll Kansas State on the road Thursday night. After all, K-State had lost four games in a row, including a 55-0 whitewashing at the hands of Oklahoma.
Well, No. 6 Baylor beat K-State to improve to 8-0, but the 31-24 final left much to be desired for a team that scored 56+ points in its first six games this season.
Just how big of an effect will Russell’s absence have on the Bears the rest of the way?
“I think it has a large effect,” CBSSports.com college football analyst Tom Fornelli said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I didn’t really know for sure if it would show up against Kansas State. Although Kansas State is a tough team – and as we saw, Bill Snyder really knows how to put together the game plan that you need to have in order to beat Baylor. He showed everybody the formula for what you have to do. He just doesn’t have the players to do it.”
Jarrett Stidham was 23-of-33 for 419 yards and three touchdowns. He played well. But Baylor also ran 34 times for just 103 yards (3.0 yards per carry), while K-State rushed 48 times for 258 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and two scores.
“I think going forward, yes, they got by Kansas State, which is nice, but it’s the rest of their schedule that matters,” Fornelli said. “What’s scary to me about Stidham taking over for Russell isn’t that they have a freshman quarterback coming in. If this is September, I don’t worry about it. But in November, now they’ve got Oklahoma, then road trips to Oklahoma State and TCU in the next few weeks. These are Baylor’s next two games, and that’s really not the time of year that you want to be relying on your freshman quarterback. They were able to just out-talent Kansas State for the most part on Thursday night. Kansas State’s offense ground that defense down, took total control of the ball for most of the night, but Baylor was just able to use its talent to score quickly and make it not matter.
“I don’t know that Baylor is going to be able to do that same exact thing against an Oklahoma or against a TCU if Oklahoma and TCU can follow that same Kansas State game plan of just keeping that offense off the field,” Fornelli continued. “So I am still worried. It’s nice to see what Stidham did last night and how well he performed, especially considering that Kansas State completely took away the Baylor run game. Baylor couldn’t move the ball on the ground to save its life on Thursday night. But Stidham was still able to do that and pick apart a secondary for the most part all night long thanks to having a guy like Corey Coleman.”
Coleman had 11 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns.
“That’s a nice weapon to have no matter who your quarterback is,” Fornelli said. “So I’m not wiring off Baylor, but going forward against those opponents with a freshman quarterback, at some point the kid’s going to make a mistake. All freshmen quarterbacks do. And against these types of teams they’re going to be going up against, I don’t know that Baylor can survive those mistakes.”