'Baylor beat us today': Kansas State football team accepts loss, vows to move forward
MANHATTAN — Chris Klieman's postgame message to his Kansas State football team was direct.
There was no point in making excuses Saturday following the Wildcats' 20-10 senior day loss to a Baylor team with Big 12 championship aspirations.
"Like I told the guys in the locker room, Baylor beat us (Saturday)," said Klieman, whose Wildcats fell to 7-4 overall, 4-4 in the league, and saw their four-game winning streak halted. "We lost on offense, we lost on defense and they made the big play on special teams that got them the first seven points."
A muffed punt just minutes into the game set Baylor up for an early score and the Wildcats were in chase mode the rest of the way.
"It's really tough," said K-State safety Ross Elder, one of 30 Wildcat seniors honored before their final home game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. "Baylor's such a good football team. We knew that going in.
"It's very tough. You don't want to lose on senior night, but all respect to Baylor for that."
Elder finished with a career-high 10 tackles, including a fourth-down stop near midfield early in the second half that led to a field goal.
But it was a Baylor team that played the final minute of the first half and all of the second with redshirt freshman backup Blake Shapen at quarterback, and never truly let K-State back in the game. Shapen, who replaced starter Gerry Bohanon, completed 16 of 21 passes for 137 yards.
"Disappointed in the outcome. I think we played a physical game," said super-senior linebacker Cody Fletcher, who finished with nine tackles in his final home game. "That's a really good team.
"We knew that coming in. They made more plays than us."
The Wildcats never got closer than seven points after Baylor went in front on Trestan Ebner's 6-yard touchdown run with 11:09 left in the opening quarter. The score was set up when Phillip Brooks muffed a punt return and AJ McCarty recovered at the KSU 24-yard line.
"We got behind early on the miscue and were down 7-0 and we just couldn't get out of that hole," Klieman said.
But while Klieman didn't sugarcoat the loss, he also reminded his team that it was just the final home game, not the end of the season. The Wildcats, who have a short week before heading to Texas to face a struggling Longhorn team on Friday, then wait to learn their bowl game destination.
"We've got more story to write and we can still have a really special season," Klieman said.
"We're 7-4, we get a great opportunity next week to go to Texas and a chance to go to a bowl game. We've got some things in front of us, too."
Center Noah Johnson, another super-senior playing his final home game, said that while the locker room mood was somber, there also was a sense of determination.
"There's only so much you can said. Everyone on this team's a grown man," he said. "We know what just happened (and) we know what we've got to do to get better. We've just got to do it.
"If it was easy, everyone would do it. It sucks, but you don't play football to cakewalk everyone. You play football for games like this — high-stakes games against really good teams."
Skyler Thompson's status uncertain
K-State sixth-year senior quarterback Skylar Thompson had a rough day all around, completing just 15 of 29 passes for 158 yards while under constant pressure. To make matters worse, he was helped off the field after going down with an apparent ankle injury with 4:04 left in the game.
Klieman said he had no update on either Thompson or senior safety Jahron McPherson, who went out with 5:40 left in the first quarter.
Jaren Lewis replaced Thompson with K-State driving in Baylor territory and immediately threw an interception.
Deuce breaks 1,000
K-State sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn rushed for 128 yards on just 11 carries, putting him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season with 1,115. That included a 65-yard touchdown run late in the first half that cut Baylor's lead to 14-7.
"It's humbling," Vaughn said of topping the 1,000-yard mark.