Forcing turnovers could be the key for Kansas State

The contrast in styles that is Baylor against Kansas State never loses its intrigue.

Art Briles' quips vs. Bill Snyder’s fatherly advice. Flashy uniforms and flashy touchdowns vs. classic K-State purple-and-white uniforms and relentless execution. The list goes on and on.

But Baylor has owned Kansas State in recent years. Not only did the Bears stomp on the Wildcats’ BCS hopes with a 52-24 win in 2012, but Briles’ squad has won three of the last four meetings with Snyder’s Wildcats.

The Bears' speed has simply been too much for K-State to handle. BU’s dominance has been built upon big plays, averaging 18 plays of 10 yards or more in the last four meetings with the Wildcats. It explains Snyder’s response when asked how K-State could force some mental mistakes and turnovers from the Bears.

“If we could sneak 12 or 13 guys on the field we’d have a better chance, I think,” Snyder said.

Forcing turnovers could be his best bet. After all, the Bears can’t use their speed and create big plays without the ball, and winning the turnover battle is a core foundation of Snyder’s program. Much of the Wildcats' recent success has been built upon forcing opponents into mistakes, and KSU’s lone triumph over BU in recent years was sparked by three Bears turnovers in a 36-35 Wildcats win in 2011.

Kansas State has forced at least two turnovers in 21 games during the past three seasons. The Wildcats are 20-1 in those games, including 11-0 in the last two seasons. Road wins over West Virginia and Oklahoma this season were built upon turnovers, with Snyder’s team recording plus-2 turnover margins in both games.

It’s easy to assume West Virginia provided the blueprint for the Wildcats, holding Baylor to 318 yards and 4.03 yards per play to hand the Bears their lone loss this season. The Mountaineers blitzed the Bears relentlessly, trusting their secondary to hold up in the moments Bryce Petty got the ball away. It worked to the tune of four Mountaineers sacks.

K-State’s defense isn’t built to match that game plan. The Wildcats' defense forces teams to drive the length of the field without making a mistake, and that plan has worked well this season with KSU leading the Big 12 in points allowed (20.3) and yards allowed (341). So expect that game plan to continue Saturday.

“We just have to do what we’re capable of doing, not try to do something we’re not capable of doing,” Snyder said.

Baylor knows KSU provides a unique challenge with the Wildcats' ability to take advantage of opponents' mistakes while limiting mistakes of their own. Attacking K-State is a much different task than overcoming the pressure West Virginia brought to the table, yet just as difficult.

“They are about as sound of a defense as you could ever find,” Petty said. “They don't make mistakes or very rarely do. Offense, defense and special teams, Coach Snyder does a great job with that ball club. For us, it is all about execution. We have to make sure all our t's are crossed and our i's are dotted.”

Or risk opening the door for Snyder’s team to do what it does best.