Stidham threw for 419 yards and three touchdowns in his starting debut to keep the legend alive and lead No. 6 Baylor (8-0, 5-0) to a 31-24 victory over Kansas State (3-5, 0-5) on Thursday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan.
The Stephenville product found wide receiver Corey Coleman on the first play of the game for a long gain before running into the end zone to put Baylor up 7-0 less than two minutes into the game. K-State scored on a 10-minute drive, but Stidham gave Baylor control with a 55-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver KD Cannon and an 81-yard pass to Coleman.
Despite being inexperienced, Art Briles banned the “f-word” in the press conference on Monday, saying he just doesn’t play like one. That held true on Thursday night.
Stidham looked calm and poised in the pocket. His passes were exceedingly accurate. In fact, some passes were so accurate, it took receivers off guard.
In the second quarter, Stidham found redshirt freshman Chris Platt on a slant. Platt was in double-coverage and the angle looked terrible on television. On the field, Stidham saw the opening and delivered the ball straight through both defenders and had the ball bounce off of Platt’s hands.
Finding a rhythm with Stidham’s passes will be an ongoing process, but his attention to detail will set him apart in this league. He showed the ability to make passes at every level, including bubble screens, slants up the middle and a particularly beautiful throw on the Coleman touchdown. Perhaps the only place he struggled was on quick out routes, where he tended to overthrow his receiver. That fix will come with time.
Coleman also had a massive day to cement himself as a true contender for the Heisman Trophy. The Richardson Pearce product finished with 217 yards and two touchdowns to cross the 1,000-yard threshold for the second consecutive season. Running back Shock Linwood crossed the 1,000-yard rushing threshold.
Despite all the positivity relating to Stidham, Baylor only won the game by one touchdown.
Baylor’s defense was on the field for long sections of the game, as the Bears lost the time-of-possession battle 38 minutes to 22 on Thursday night. The Bears’ D allowed Kansas State to pick up 430 yards, 258 of which were on the ground.
Baylor struggled all night long against the zone read, which Kansas State ran to perfection. Kansas State quarterback Joe Hubener ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Charles Jones added 76 yards on the ground.
The Wildcats were the more consistent team offensively, but that had plenty to do with the Bears’ struggles running the ball. The Bears came into the game averaging 338.3 rushing yards per game, but mustered only 103 yards on 3.0 yards per carry.
The easy reaction after a game like this is to blame the defense, and the defense certainly deserves some share of the credit. The defensive line struggled to play contain. Middle linebacker Grant Campbell was miserable, missing multiple reads and virtually running into blockers on some plays.
Perhaps most bizarre, Phil Bennett opted to leave the box relatively open against Hubener, who had only thrown for 100 or more yards against one other team in conference play. The adjustments at halftime were not made.
That said, Baylor’s offense contracted much too early. When you are Bennett and the defense, you are simply looking to get enough stops to give the offense a chance. Baylor got stops on seven of its 11 drives and forced three turnovers. The offense did not score at all off any of the turnovers.
Whether we like it or not, the defense and offense cannot function without each other.
Baylor is still ranked No. 6 in the country and should earn some cache back after Stidham’s performance. The Bears will have a long layoff, but will play No. 15 Oklahoma on Nov. 14. It has not officially been announced, but the game is expected to be the lead draw for College GameDay if Oklahoma wins this weekend.