Bryce Young throws for 5 TDs, Alabama tops Kansas State in Sugar Bowl

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Andrew Wevers/USA TODAY Sports
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NEW ORLEANS — Bryce Young‘s decision to opt in to the Sugar Bowl only enhanced his chances of cashing in as a pro.

Young passed for 321 yards and five touchdowns in a game that other top NFL prospects might have skipped, and No. 5 Alabama responded to an early two-score deficit with 35 straight points to defeat 11th-ranked Kansas State 45-20 on Saturday.

“For me it was just about doing everything I can to help the team,” Young said. “We had pride in how we played and how we prepared – us wanting to finish, us wanting to push ourselves and hold each other accountable.”

While a number of pro-bound college stars sat out bowl games that were not part of the College Football Playoff, the Crimson Tide and Wildcats had their best prospects on the field for the Sugar Bowl and they made a number of memorable plays – from Young’s pivotal passes to Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn‘s 88-yard touchdown run to interceptions by Alabama’s Jordan Battle and Brian Branch.

“These guys sent a message to everybody that you create value for yourself by playing football,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “It speaks volumes of your character when you choose to be a part of your team and you can be counted on to be part of your team, regardless of the circumstances.”

With the game in hand in the fourth quarter, Young was ceremoniously substituted out, raising his right hand to Alabama fans who loudly rose to their feet as the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner trotted to the sideline.

Kansas State coach Chris Klieman asked a member of Alabama’s staff to thank Young for playing.

“That’s what college football is about. I was happy Bryce played,” Klieman said. “That was really good for college football and really good for kids to see.”

Jermaine Burton caught three passes for 87 yards and a touchdown for Alabama (11-2). Tide running back Jahmyr Gibbs had 142 yards from scrimmage – 76 rushing and 66 receiving. Young’s other touchdowns went to Isaiah Bond (6 yards), Cameron Latu (1 yard), Ja’Corey Brooks (32 yards) and Kobe Prentice (47 yards). Jase McClelland added a 17-yard scoring run.

“We had a little bit of a taste in our mouth that if we had a dominant performance, it would show people that we probably did deserve to do a little better than we did in terms of the playoff picture,” Saban said. “But I’m most proud that there was a team out there that cared.”

Kansas State (10-4) entered its first Sugar Bowl on a four-game winning streak and was riding high after knocking off No. 3 TCU – a CFP team – in the Big 12 title game.

Although Battle’s leaping interception of Will Howard ended K-State’s opening drive on the Alabama 21, the Wildcats scored the Sugar Bowl’s first 10 points, surging in front on Ty Zentner’s 41-yard field goal and Vaughn’s long run.

Alabama was on the brink of punting a third time when Young, on third and 10, stepped up in a collapsing pocket and flicked a short pass to Gibbs, who was cutting across the middle and turned up field for 60 yards. Young stepped up similarly to avoid pressure on his touchdown pass to Bond soon after.

Young threw over the top to Burton for 47 yards to setup his scoring pass to Latu that put Alabama in front for good.

Kansas State drove to the Alabama 2 late in the first half – converting two fourth-downs along the way – only to fail on fourth-and-goal when Howard threw out of reach of tight end Ben Sinnott, who was breaking open after Will Anderson fell while trying to cover him.

“I would have done it again,” Klieman said. “I’m never going to second-guess myself.”

Young needed just 51 seconds to produce another touchdown, completing passes of 12, 28 and 22 yards before hitting Burton from 12 yards out to make it 21-10 at halftime.

“That was a huge swing in the game,” Saban said.

Kansas State paid for another risk when its onside kick to open the second half was recovered by Alabama, which scored shortly after on Young’s strike to Ja’Corey Brooks in the corner of the end zone.

“We came here to win, man,” Klieman said. “We didn’t come here to try to keep this thing close.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Kansas State: Howard finished 18-of-35 passing for 210 yards. Vaughn rushed for 133 yards on 22 carries. Jordan Schippers had a late 1-yard TD run.

Alabama: The Tide upended the narrative that it doesn’t get up for low-stakes bowl games, having lost by two touchdowns in each of its previous two Sugar Bowls that were not part of the BCS or CFP. Alabama has now won 10 Sugar Bowls in 17 appearances.

UP NEXT

Kansas State: Opens its 2023 campaign at home against Southeast Missouri on Sept. 2.

Alabama: Hosts Middle Tennessee on Sept. 2 to begin its 2023 season.

No. 3 TCU loses 31-28 in OT to Kansas State in Big 12 title game

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Ty Zentner kicked a 31-yard field goal in overtime as 13th-ranked Kansas State beat No. 3 TCU 31-28 in the Big 12 championship game Saturday, leaving the Horned Frogs to wait another day to find out if they had already done enough to get into the four-team College Football Playoff.

The Wildcats set up the winning field goal after TCU (12-1) had the opening possession of overtime and Kendre Miller was stopped short on consecutive plays from inside the 1.

Deuce Vaughn ran for 130 yards and a touchdown and Will Howard threw two TDs for the Wildcats (10-3, No. 10 CFP), who six weeks earlier had jumped out to a 28-10 lead early in the second quarter before TCU scored the game’s last 28 points.

That was one of five games the Horned Frogs (12-1, No. 3 CFP) won when trailing after halftime. But they couldn’t do it again with the chance to guarantee being the first Big 12 team other than Oklahoma to make the playoff.

TCU, the first Big 12 team to complete a regular season undefeated since Texas in 2009, could still get into the playoff. While their case was helped when fourth-ranked Southern California (11-2) lost 47-24 to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night, the Frogs now have to wait until the final CFP rankings come out Sunday.

Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said before the game that TCU, with first-year coach Sonny Dykes, already deserved to be in the playoff.

“You look at their strength of schedule. You think about how they’ve performed all year long,” Yormark said. “I think regardless, they should be in, for sure.”

No. 22 Kansas State routs No. 9 Oklahoma State, 48-0

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – After the final seconds ticked away on No. 22 Kansas State’s comprehensive 48-0 win over ninth-ranked Oklahoma State on Saturday, thousands of purple-clad fans didn’t storm the field so much as they wandered onto it in celebration.

Which was altogether fitting, considering the way the Wildcats methodically trounced the Cowboys.

Backup quarterback Will Howard threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns, Deuce Vaughn ran for 158 yards and another score, and a late interception by the Wildcats sealed Oklahoma State’s first shutout loss since 2009 while allowing Kansas State to remain a game behind TCU in the race for berths in the Big 12 championship game.

“This is as good a win as I’ve ever been a part of,” Kansas State coach Chris Klieman said. “Offense fed off defense. Defense fed off the offense. We need to play complementary football and we were really good in all three phases.”

Kansas State scored TDs on its first two possessions, had 495 yards of total offense and held Oklahoma State, which had been the nation’s No. 3 scoring offense at 44.7 points per game, to just 217 yards – less than half its season average.

Kade Warner caught five passes for 97 yards and two scores, and Malik Knowles had eight catches for 113 yards. The late interception gave the Wildcats (6-2, 4-1) their first shutout of the Cowboys since a 10-0 win on Nov. 21, 1992.

“We’re confident,” Howard said. “We feel good right now. And we just played a really good game against a really good team and beat them 48-0. And the nice thing is, we haven’t played our best game, and that’s still in front of us.”

Spencer Sanders was just 13 of 26 for 147 yards with an interception for Oklahoma State (6-2, 3-2) before landing hard on his shoulder midway through the fourth quarter. The star quarterback did not return to the game.

The Cowboys’ most lopsided loss in nearly 18 seasons under coach Mike Gundy was also their first shutout loss to anyone since Nov. 28, 2009, when they fell 27-0 to Oklahoma in the Bedlam game.

“We got our butt kicked,” Gundy said. “I’m not taking anything away from Kansas State. They’re a good team and they played really well. I don’t know if they could have played a better game than they did today.”

The Wildcats have had some strangely easy wins over Oklahoma State. The last time a Gundy team was held to 12 points or fewer was in a 31-12 loss in Manhattan in 2018, and the last time the Cowboys trailed any game by at least 38 points was during a 48-14 loss to the Wildcats in 2014.

The biggest question surrounding Kansas State was the health of its own quarterback, Adrian Martinez, who played just four snaps in last week’s loss to TCU because of a knee injury. And while he warmed up with the starters Saturday, it was the veteran backup Howard who headed out to the field on the opening possession of the game.

Howard proceeded to torture the banged-up Cowboys defense for the next 30 minutes.

He capped the opening drive by hitting Warner on fourth-and-10 for a 38-yard TD reception. Then, after Vaughn ripped off a 62-yard touchdown run, Howard threw a 31-yard third-down scoring strike to Phillip Brooks to make it 21-0.

“Adrian didn’t feel like he was 100 percent confident in what he was going to be able to do,” Klieman said, “and I appreciate that because he’s a team player. We knew we would be good either way.”

Howard’s fourth TD throw – also to Warner and also on third down – was a short screen that turned into a 41-yard strike. And the final touchdown of the half, after Oklahoma State stuffed Kansas State twice at the goal line, went to Vaughn with just 11 seconds left and made it 35-0 at halftime.

Meanwhile, the prolific Cowboys offense couldn’t answer any of the scores.

Their opening drive ended with a fourth-down incompletion. The next ended in a punt, and the next when Oklahoma State wide receiver Brennan Presley fumbled the ball away on the first play. The Cowboys punted twice more in the half around an interception, when Sanders overthrew everyone but the Kansas State defense.

The only question in the second half was whether the Wildcats would keep the Cowboys off the scoreboard.

“It takes all of us,” Warner said, “to have an outcome like that today.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Oklahoma State had won eight of its past 10 against ranked opponents, and the losses were by five last year to Baylor and three in double-overtime to TCU this season. But the Cowboys never put up a fight against Kansas State, even though the winner would have the inside track on a possible rematch with the Horned Frogs in the Big 12 title game.

Kansas State celebrated its first home game in 28 days by ending a three-game skid against the Cowboys in confidence-building fashion. It dominated on both sides of the ball, and on special teams, nearly got a punt return touchdown.

UP NEXT

Oklahoma State heads down Interstate 70 to face Kansas next Saturday.

Kansas State welcomes Texas to Bill Snyder Family Stadium the same day.