MANHATTAN — The best rush for Kansas State on Saturday came on the Wildcats’ first drive, from Alex Barnes.
The best catch was a fourth-quarter interception swiped by opportunistic safety Kendall Adams.
The best interpretation of what happened in terms of overall plays made by Kansas State in its 33-20 victory over Baylor was offered by Bill Snyder.
“It was very, very inconsistent,’’ said the Wildcats coach. “We made a few big plays but we need to be more of a big-play offense. … That needs to be part of the balance that we have.’’
Instead, quarterback Jesse Ertz again read zones, delayed draws and scrambled for 95 yards on 12 carries.
He blended that with just seven aerial connections and 119 yards passing.
Enough to beat a winless team to open Big 12 play.
Hardly enough to remove concerns for an attack that was coming off a disappointing seven-point performance and seven-point defeat at Vanderbilt.
K-State actually started things with a drive that took just 1 minute, 43 seconds to complete as Barnes broke a 38-yard gain before Ertz hit Isaiah Zuber with a 16-yard touchdown strike.
Otherwise, very little came easy.
Except for the touchdowns Baylor scored on a 74-yard run and a 70-yard pass to get within one score, 27-20, early in the fourth quarter. The K-State defense, which previously stiffened after a fumbled punt return by D.J. Reed and a successful fake punt by Baylor’s Connor Martin, looked gassed.
Baylor being Baylor, however, had a snap that sailed over the quarterback’s head and another snap mishandled by Martin. The Bears fell to 0-5 for the first time since 1978.
Other Big 12 rivals will not be so benevolent. Not in the next game, when K-State visits Texas in prime time. And not the next two times the Cats are at home, against TCU and Oklahoma successively.
“We need to be a far better disciplined football team than what we are in some areas,’’ Snyder said.
Assuming the electrical plug attached to the Jugs gun did not fray after the Vanderbilt loss, receivers will be put through the motions in practice after again dropping far too many passes.
“I can put a finger on it,’’ Snyder said. “I can certainly do that, and I certainly will. We have two options. One is to get it corrected. Another is to get somebody else.’’
The last drop, by Zuber, prevented a second touchdown for the sophomore wideout and prompted Matthew McCrane to come on for the last of his four field goals.
Good thing the senior kicker was able to atone for a 42-yard miss in the tight loss at Vandy.
“It was a tie game (at Vandy) right at the time I missed, so it was tough,’’ said McCrane, “but it was a motivator in practice. … It was great to go 4-for-4, especially after two weeks ago. At the beginning of the year I wanted to be 100 percent, and I missed, but I’ve got to be 100 percent. If I can’t do my job, I shouldn’t be kicking.’’
Regulars in the K-State offense need to exert that same resolve.
Oh, they will make mistakes. Glitches will happen too with execution.
The Cats, however, need to be better at converting red zone opportunities. They had six chances against the Bears and split them into three touchdowns and three field goals.
Ertz has assumed much of the offensive workload. This is often true for any K-State offense since the quarterback run game is such a staple.
However, this was a season the backfield figured to show off potent depth, a veteran line could push around defenders and receivers were considered more than capable.
The Cats are 3-1 but struggling to engage all their pieces.
“It’s very frustrating for us as an offense,’’ said backup running back Dalvin Warmack, “because something we strive for each week is red zone efficiency. Not field goals, but touchdowns.’’
One electrifying touchdown by Barnes, in which he got off the pile and was not yet ruled down, was overturned on review. While the sophomore back, who finished with 80 yards on 13 carries, thought the TD should have counted, he too knows the Cats did not capitalize enough.
“We did leave some points on the board,’’ said Barnes, “especially in the red zone. Stuff we usually punch in, but props to them for being able to stop us. We’ll look to improve on that.’’
That’s a must considering the schedule toughens the next three weeks and the Cats no longer get another bye week during Big 12 play.
“We just have to be better,’’ Snyder said.
Contact Kevin Haskin at firstname.lastname@example.org or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.