Home-field advantage is more than just an expression at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
The Kansas State football team continued its streak of lopsided victories inside its home stadium by demolishing Baylor 59-25 on Saturday. The Wildcats might as well embrace the nickname Fort Snyder at this point.
This is the place where Big 12 teams go to lose by obscene margins. K-State is a perfect 6-0 at home this season, with those six victories coming by an average score of 45-12. Average margin of victory: 33.
K-State ended any hope of a Baylor upset early in this one. The Wildcats rolled to a 35-7 lead early in the second quarter and cruised from there.
The Wildcats scored so often that the visiting soldiers from Fort Riley (and Willie the Wildcat) were tasked with doing 299 push-ups to celebrate every point that K-State put on the board.
Will Howard led the offense to five touchdowns and a field goal with some impressive throws that helped the Wildcats bounce back from a disappointing loss at Texas last week. Avery Johnson also threw one touchdown pass. But the K-State defense also lit up the scoreboard with a pair of touchdowns. This was a stellar all-around effort from K-State.
Best of all for the Wildcats (7-3, 5-2 Big 12), they also improved their hopes of returning to the conference championship game thanks to Oklahoma State’s unexpected loss at UCF. That combination of results moves K-State into a tie for second in the league standings with two games remaining.
The Wildcats still need another loss from the Cowboys or a convoluted multi-team tiebreaker to pass Oklahoma State in the pecking order. But that feels like more of a possibility than it did before Saturday began.
K-State will try to build off its win over Baylor next week when it heads to Kansas for one of the most anticipated Sunflower Showdown football games in recent memory.
Until then, here are some takeaways from Saturday’s action:
Will Howard breaks the K-State touchdown record
The list of excellent quarterbacks who have played at Kansas State is long.
Josh Freeman was a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, Collin Klein and Michael Bishop were both finalists for the Heisman Trophy, Ell Roberson was a highlight machine, Jake Waters and Skylar Thompson are household names in Manhattan.
We could go on and on.
But we can’t stop until we mention Will Howard. The veteran passer etched his name into K-State lore on Saturday when he broke the school record for career touchdown passes with an outstanding day for the Wildcats. He now has 45 touchdown passes in a K-State uniform, which puts him one ahead of Freeman, who previously held the record.
It was clear early on that Howard was going to do something special. He lit up the Bears in the first quarter and never stopped leading the Wildcats to the end zone.
Howard completed 19 of 29 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns. He also had a rushing touchdown.
All of his touchdown throws were impressive. The first was a pass to running back DJ Giddens, who caught the ball in the flats and then rumbled 18 yards for a score. Next, Howard moved around in the pocket until tight end Ben Sinnott came open in the end zone. Howard found him for an easy touchdown. Later, Howard found Christian Moore with a short pass that ended with Moore scoring the first touchdown of his career.
He nearly completed another touchdown pass in the third quarter, but Jadon Jackson was unable to corral a diving catch in the end zone.
Howard has put on a show for K-State fans over the past few weeks. If he continues to play this well it could be a while before another K-State quarterback is able to surpass his touchdown record.
Cody Stufflebean was a playmaker at defensive end
K-State fans have seen Cody Stufflebean make a good play here and there since he joined the Wildcats out of McPherson several years ago. But never like this.
The junior defensive end played by far his best game in a K-State uniform by coming through with two massive tackles.
One of them even led to a defensive touchdown.
Stufflebean made his presence felt by beating his blocker and hitting Baylor quarterback Blake Shapen with a blindside tackle that led to both a sack and a fumble. The loose ball bounced perfectly into the hands of linebacker Desmond Purnell, who scooped it up and scampered into the end zone for a touchdown that gave the Wildcats a 21-7 lead in the first quarter.
No matter what happened the rest of the day, Stufflebean was going home happy.
But he wasn’t done. Stufflebean also came up with a sack later in the first half. He finished with three tackles.
It’s fun to see unsung K-State players score for the first time
During its recent string of blowout victories at home, K-State has been able to create scoring opportunities for several unsung players who aren’t usually featured prominently on offense.
Over the past few weeks we have seen the following players catch touchdown passes and then celebrate like they had never scored a touchdown before:
Young tight end Garrett Oakley
Reserve tight end Will Swanson
Special teams maven Seth Porter
Fullback Christian Moore
Moore was the latest to join the club on Saturday. His teammates went wild when he crossed the goal line. Moments like that make college football fun and unique.
Cooper Beebe makes a big play ... on defense?
That is not a mistake in the box score.
K-State offensive lineman Cooper Beebe did, indeed, make a tackle while lining up as a member of the K-State defense on Saturday. The Wildcats have used Beebe as a specialty defensive lineman over the past two weeks. Coordinator Joe Klanderman has called upon him at the goal line in back-to-back games.
After seeing one snap against Texas he saw more action against Baylor. This time, he was able to stuff a Baylor running play for no gain.
The Wildcats are likely only using Beebe at the moment because defensive tackle Damian Ilalio, who would normally come in to help in those situations, is out with an injury. But it wold be fun to see Beebe continue to play both ways. Not to mention it could help boost his odds of winning a prestigious offensive lineman award at the end of the season.
Special moment for Keenan Garber
When Keenan Garber originally committed to play for K-State coach Chris Klieman out of Lawrence he did so as a wide receiver.
That is where Garber played for the majority of his college career until he decided to give defense a try last season and showed immediate promise as a cornerback. Now he is starting for the Wildcats as a key member of their defense, and he is making big plays.
None have been bigger than the interception he came up with against Baylor. He jumped a route perfectly in the third quarter and took his pick the other way for an easy touchdown.
His decision to switch positions has clearly paid off, and now he has a touchdown to show for it.