- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - If only Kansas State had played a clean game, the College Football Playoff picture might have looked a whole lot different after Thursday night.

Joe Hubener had 153 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, and threw for 151 yards and another score. But two costly turnovers by the quarterback, and another interception thrown by wide receiver Cody Cook in the final minute, allowed No. 2 Baylor to escape with a 31-24 victory.

“It isn’t anything that resembles rocket science. In order to execute-slash-eliminate mistakes that cost you ballgames, you have to practice better,” Wildcats coach Bill Snyder said. “We’ve made headway with practicing, but as I told them, it’s not all going to come just like that.”

Jarrett Stidham threw for 419 yards and three touchdowns in his first start in place of the injured Seth Russell, and Corey Coleman had 11 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns to help the Bears (5-0 Big 12, No. 6 CFP) improve to 8-0 for the second time in school history.

“We feel like our team is a team of survivors,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who have been through a lot. A lot of coaches who have been through a lot.”

They went through a lot on Thursday night, too.

Kansas State got to 31-24 on Hubener’s touchdown pass to Deante Burton with 4:07 left, and Chris Callahan’s missed field goal with 51 seconds remaining gave the Wildcats a chance.

But on their first play, Hubener threw a lateral to Cook, who then threw down the sideline. The sometimes-quarterback’s pass was picked off by Terrell Burt, who managed to get his right foot down inbounds, and the interception stood after an official’s review.

Baylor ran out the clock to drop the Wildcats (3-5) to 0-5 in conference play for the first time since 1989, the first season for Snyder on their sideline.

“We have to do something about being a good football team. The capabilities are there, I’ve always believed that, but you have to do something with it,” he said. “That means you have to develop it. That falls into my lap. I have to help those young guys understand what it takes in order to get off the matt and win a ballgame. I haven’t done that yet.”

The big question coming into the night was how Stidham, a freshman, would fare in place of Russell, who broke a bone in his neck a couple weeks ago against Iowa State.

He responded by completing his first three passes to lead Baylor on an 81-yard scoring drive to open the game. And after the Wildcats answered with a methodical, 88-yard march that took up 10 minutes, Stidham hit KD Cannon with another 55-yard touchdown strike.

Meanwhile, the beat-up Wildcats kept making too many mistakes.

Hubener fumbled the ball away deep in Baylor territory early in the second quarter, then threw an interception into double coverage on the next possession. Penalties, blown blocking assignments and dropped passes kept scuttling otherwise promising drives.

The Bears seemed to put the game out of reach when Stidham threw a short TD pass to Coleman in the third quarter, and Callahan hit a 39-yard field goal in the fourth. But Kansas State kept right on fighting, getting a 34-yard TD run from Hubener before his touchdown toss to Burton.

It wasn’t until one last mistake on a trick play that the Wildcats’ fate was sealed.

“Sometimes we’re hit and miss, and I think everyone has their hand in that,” Burton said. “Nothing is going to be perfect, but anything we can do as an offense and specifically a passing game to turn this ship around is something that needs to be done.”

While the victory lacked the pizazz of the Bears’ nearly 60-point shellacking of Kansas, or similar blowouts of Texas Tech and West Virginia, it was a solid start to Stidham’s tenure.

Baylor was ranked sixth in this week’s initial playoff ranking, due partly to a soft early scheduled but also the uncertainty at quarterback. And while Stidham was far from perfect - he did have a delay of game penalty - he proved to be capably in control most of the game.

That bodes well for a season-defining stretch beginning Nov. 14 against 14th-ranked Oklahoma, and continuing with back-to-back games at No. 12 Oklahoma State and No. 5 TCU.

“People,” Stidham said, “don’t need to be counting us out.”

___

AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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