NEW ORLEANS — Despite holding an early 10-0 lead over No. 5 Alabama, No. 9 K-State saw their lead disappear beginning in the second quarter as the Crimson Tide eventually pulled away to win the 2022 Sugar Bowl 45-20.
K-State started the game really well on each side of the ball. But a Will Howard interception on the first drive of the game on a pass intended for running back Deuce Vaughn brought the Bama offense on the field. But K-State’s defense forced a three-and-out on their first stand, and they didn’t allow a single yard on the drive.
When the Wildcat offense returned to the field, they executed a strong 11-play drive that conquered 38 yards of field possession. But the drive ended with Howard failing to complete a pass to Kade Warner on third and eight. Kicker Ty Zentner came on and drilled a 41-yard field goal to put the Wildcats ahead 3-0.
Alabama’s next drive could have ended in a touchdown, but star quarterback Bryce Young missed a wide-open Jermaine Burton streaking up the seam on the second play. Later, the Tide was forced to punt, which was downed at the Wildcat 12-yard line.
On the ensuing Wildcats possession, Vaughn bounced a run out to the right sideline and ran past the entire secondary on his way to an 88-yard touchdown run as the Wildcat faith roared to their feet with the Wildcats taking a 10-0 lead over the might Crimson Tide.
I had a pretty good angle of the Deuce Vaughn TD run. Love the camera stare and the hug with Chris Klieman at the end. pic.twitter.com/NJVtApSrzM
— Zach Martin (@ZachMartinTV) December 31, 2022
But K-State’s lead was short-lived as Nick Saban’s team started a 35-0 run beginning on their third offensive drive of the game when Young hit Isaiah Bond for a six-yard touchdown reception.
After a K-State three-and-out, the Wildcats first of the game, the Crimson Tide scored a second touchdown to take a 14-10 lead when Young found tight end Cameron Latu in the back of the end zone to put the Tide ahead 14-10.
K-State’s offense then conducted an impressive 18-play drive that conquered more than 70 yards and took 10:32 off the clock. The drive included a pair of conversions on fourth down with Howard completing passes to Malik Knowles and tight end Ben Sinnott. But on fourth and two from the two-yard line, Howard’s pass was out of reach from Sinnott who was open near the goal line.
Alabama then took over possession inside their own five. After a Jahmyr Gibbs two-yard carry, K-State’s Chris Klieman called a timeout in hopes of eventually getting the ball back before halftime. Alabama had a couple of successful rushes on the drive, but they moved it in large chunks when young found Burton for a 34-yard reception before hitting Latu on a crossing pattern that was downed at the 12-yard line. Burton then caught a TD pass in the end zone to give Alabama a 21-10 lead shortly before halftime.
Coming out of halftime, K-State tried a surprise onside kick — but Alabama recovered the kick and just three plays later found the end zone to take a 28-10 lead with Bama wide receiver Ja’Corey Brooks bringing in a beautifully thrown ball from Young in the back of the end zone.
BRYCE YOUNG pic.twitter.com/gl9twQCN8O
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 31, 2022
When K-State’s offense returned to the field Howard threw his second interception of the game, this time inside Bama territory. The Crimson Tide scored on the very next play with running back Jase McClellan rushing it 17 yards for the score.
K-State’s offense would later get a second field goal after an eight-play 54-yard drive. But the Crimson Tide — and Young — responded with another passing touchdown when Young found freshman Kobe Prentice over the middle on a 47-yard catch and run for the former top-100 recruit to give the Crimson Tide a 42-13 lead.
The game’s pace slowed in the fourth quarter with the only point being an Alabama field goal from 49 yards to put the Tide ahead 45-13. K-State’s offense did score a touchdown with just over three minutes left with Jordan Schippers running it in from a yard out to make it 45-20, Alabama.
The blowout loss in the Sugar Bowl brings an end to a memorable season for the Wildcats. K-State won its first Big 12 title in a decade and had significant wins over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and rival Kansas in the season finale.
STAR OF THE GAME
Young — the 2021 Heisman trophy winner — likely played his final game in Alabama uniform on Saturday, and he could not have gone out in a better way. Young had five touchdown passes, which ties a career-high. In total, Young completed 15-of-21 passes for 321 yards in the game for a quarterback rating of 278.4
There was loads of speculation that Young would opt out of the Sugar Bowl to begin focusing on the NFL Draft — where he is potentially the No. 1 overall selection in April.
STAT OF THE GAME
K-State averaged about five yards per carry on Saturday. Entering the Sugar Bowl, Alabama’s defense was allowing just 3.5 yards per carry. While K-State’s yards per carry statistics are a bit inflated because of Vaughn’s 88-yard touchdown scamper, the Wildcats still found success rushing against the Crimson Tide, especially between the tackles.
Vaughn finished the game with 22 carries for 133 yards, an average of 6.0 yards per carry. D.J. Giddens, who got most of his carries in the third and fourth quarters finished the game with 67 yards on 7.4 yards per attempt.