SE: Wildcats Face Baylor in Thursday Evening Showdown

K-State football is set to take on another challenge tonight.

The Wildcats (3-4, 0-4 Big 12) face off against No. 2 Baylor (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) at 6:30 p.m., in Bill Snyder Family Stadium before K-State’s 25th-consecutive sellout crowd. 

“Who wouldn’t want to be playing at home in Manhattan, Kansas, on a Thursday night?” said freshman center Dalton Risner with a grin. “Having Baylor come into town – they’re undefeated and we’re on a losing streak – that’s a big opportunity for us. It’s a perfect opportunity for us to make a statement and show our season isn’t over yet.”

It’s true, the Wildcats are on a four-game losing streak while the Bears are one of 11 undefeated teams left in the nation. 

And among those undefeated teams, Baylor boasts college football’s toughest offense as its 61 points and 686 yards per contest both lead the nation. This Baylor offense will be no easy matchup for the Wildcats. However, the K-State defense isn’t hanging its head and isn’t going to back down, rather, it’s ready for the challenge.  

“Our mindset is that (this season) is not over yet; we still have something to prove and we haven’t played our best football yet,” said linebacker Elijah Lee. “When a team comes here, it’s harder on them than it is on us because the fan base we have and the type of stadium we have. It’s always loud and always rocking when big games come. With our fans behind us, and our fans yelling, that gets us going. We thrive off that energy. The more energy we have, the more fun we have and anything can happen.” 

Anything can happen. That seemed to be the mindset on Tuesday afternoon at the K-State football press conference. Head coach Bill Snyder said that his team had one of its best weeks of practice all season and that K-State has been working hard to get back on track. 

“We’ve been focused in practice, there’s been a lot of spirit, guys are fired up and we’re ready for Thursday,” said quarterback Joe Hubener. “Coach Snyder is always preaching about working hard, and despite our recent losses, the more we work, the more results are going to come. If we continue to work, it’s going to pay off.”

K-State enters tonight’s matchup coming off of a bye week after falling at Texas, 23-9, on a rainy Oct. 17. 

In five starts this season, Hubener has gone 66-of-145 for 936 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. The running game has been led recently by Charles Jones, who has 302 yards – including 215 in K-State’s last three contests – and three touchdowns.  

On the defensive side of the ball, Lee and fellow linebacker Will Davis are tied for a team-best 39 tackles, while defensive tackle Will Geary and defensive end Jordan Willis lead the team with 3.5 sacks each.

These K-State leaders will be firing on all cylinders tonight, however, it’s going to take everyone’s best effort to come out on top against the Bears.

“I think it will take a very good performance,” said Snyder on what his team has to do to get the win. “First and foremost is to eliminate the critical mistakes that put us with our backs to the wall; offensively, defensively and on special teams. Offensively, we will have to do very well on first downs so we do not always get in those long-yardage situations, and defensively we cannot give up those big plays.”

Tonight’s matchup with Baylor will mark K-State’s fourth-nationally ranked opponent in its last five games. It hasn’t been an easy road for the Wildcats, and though the four-game losing streak stings, the team knows it is capable of more. 

Plus, Baylor isn’t the only No. 2 ranked team the Wildcats have faced at home this season. Just under a month ago, on Oct. 10, K-State took then-No. 2 TCU down to the wire with four rushing touchdowns from Hubener and two more from Jones. Despite tying the game at 45 with 1:47 left, the Cats fell, 52-45, on a last-minute touchdown by the Horned Frogs.

The Wildcats have played good, tough football this season. They know they have. 

Can they do it again tonight?  

“We rally around each other in practice,” said Risner when asked how his team keeps its morale up during this tough stretch. “It’s not like we haven’t won a game all year and we don’t have any positives to look back upon. We’ve played some good games. Our first three games were good. We had good games against Oklahoma State and TCU. We can rally around those things on the offense and the defense. We rally around those things, and, even though it’s hard because we haven’t won in so long, we look at the positives and go off that.” 

Tonight’s primetime matchup will be broadcast nationally on FS1 with Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Joel Klatt (analyst) and Molly McGrath (sideline) on the call. The contest can also be heard across the K-State Sports Network with Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play), Stan Weber (analyst), and Matt Walters (sideline) calling the action. 

“I believe in our youngsters and I believe they are stronger than that,” said Snyder about the losing streak. “It is not the easiest thing in the world because they are not accustomed to it – none of us are – but you have two easy options: one is to stay down and the other is to get up. I trust that our young guys will get up.”

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With a sellout crowd of more than 50,000 descending upon Manhattan for Thursday night’s nationally televised football showdown against No. 2 Baylor, fans are asked to arrive as early as possible for the 6:30 p.m., kickoff to ease traffic congestion in the Manhattan area and around Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Stadium and nearby satellite parking lots will open as normal on gameday, five hours prior to kickoff at 1:30 p.m. 

Fans who typically park at the Veterinary Medicine Complex on Denison should note that the lot will have limited availability for public parking until 5 p.m. as K-State classes will be in session on Thursday and the lot is restricted to permit parking for K-State faculty, staff and students. However, ample parking is available at the Equestrian Center north of the fire station on Denison.

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The Pride of Wildcat Land Marching Band will have a new enhanced permanent home inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium as part of Phase IIIB of the stadium’s Master Plan, Athletics Director John Currie, Director of Bands Dr. Frank Tracz and student government leadership have announced.

The 400-plus member group will occupy a specially designed and one-of-a-kind area below the concourse walkway similar in positioning to the new Wabash Landing in the northwest corner.  With design guidance from Tracz beginning last spring, this unique section will not only provide more space and accessibility to accommodate members of the 2015 Sudler Trophy winning band but will also dramatically increase visibility and sound projection of the marching band for the better enjoyment of K-State fans throughout Bill Snyder Family Stadium in keeping with the department’s commitment to The Best Fan Experience in the Big 12.

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