The No. 6 Baylor Bears, with freshman Jarrett Stidham under center, built a 31-10 fourth-quarter lead and held on for a 31-24 win over the Kansas State Wildcats Thursday night. The win moves Baylor to 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the Big 12, with a crucial game against Oklahoma scheduled for next Saturday. Kansas State falls to 3-5, and 0-5 in the Big 12.
Entering Thursday night, Bears fans were concerned with a potential drop-off in the potent Baylor offense with a freshman under center. Many believed that a slip in the Bears' attack could make TCU the Big 12 frontrunner and drop Baylor behind the Horned Frogs in the College Football Playoff rankings. But the highly-rated freshman Stidham shined, completing 23 of 33 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns.
Stidham completed his first three passes and recorded his first touchdown run, a 1-yard dive, to complete the Bears' opening drive. Stidham threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to K.D. Cannon on the next drive, and connected with Corey Coleman on an 81-yard bomb two series later. Most importantly, in a series following a Kansas State touchdown that narrowed the Bears' lead to seven points, Stidham connected with Cannon on a 40-yard post pattern, giving Baylor enough space to bleed the clock under a minute before giving the ball back to the Wildcats.
Just another ho-hum TD catch for Corey Coleman . https://t.co/TDh1qn0DHn— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) November 6, 2015
Stidham's debut numbers were comparable with other Art Briles-era Baylor quarterbacks in their debut starts. Seth Russell threw for 438 yards and five touchdowns despite playing just a half in his debut as Baylor's starting quarterback last season, but it came against lowly Northwestern State. Bryce Petty was 19-of-24 passing for 312 yards and two touchdowns in his 2013 debut against Wofford.
Nick Florence, the last Baylor freshman to make his debut, completed 20 of 27 passes for 216 yards against the Golden Flashes. Robert Griffin III, who also debuted as a freshman, went 15-of-19 passing for 294 yards and three touchdowns against Northwestern State in 2008, Art Briles' second game as coach at Baylor.
Baylor's offense remains a juggernaut, regardless of who is under center. The bigger concern, though, continues to be the Baylor defense. Kansas State, which had been held to just nine combined points in its last two games, strung together a clock-consuming 17-play drive in the first quarter and racked up 355 yards of total offense, including 239 on the ground.
The Bears entered the game with the 69th-rated defense nationally in F/+, a ranking that likely won't be helped with Thursday's result. And with the College Football Playoff Committee's apparent emphasis on balance between offense and defense -- and the meat of the Big 12 still to come -- the Bears will need less emphasis on the quarterback, and more on stopping the other team's quarterback, if it is going to break into this season's bracket.