Bryce Young threw for 321 yards and five touchdowns in a game other big NFL prospects could have missed, and No. 5 Alabama responded to an early two-touchdown deficit with 35 straight points to defeat 11th-ranked Kansas State 45 -20 at the Sugar Bowl on Saturday.
While several professional college stars were left out of non-College Football Playoff bowl games, the Crimson Tide and Wildcats had their top prospects on the field and put together a series 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.
Young was substituted during a series in the fourth quarter, raising his right hand to Alabama fans who came to their feet noisily as the former Heisman Trophy winner jogged to the bench.
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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 came 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.
Kansas State (10-4) entered its first Sugar Bowl on a four-game winning streak and was riding high after defeating No. 3 TCU, a CFP team, in the Big 12 title game.
While Battle’s jumping interception of Will Howard ended K-State’s opening drive at the Alabama 21, the Wildcats scored the first 10 points of the Sugar Bowl, taking the lead on 41-yard field goal by Battle. Ty Zentner and Vaughn’s long run.
Alabama was about to punt for the third time when Young, on third-and-10, stepped into a collapsing pocket and threw a short pass to Gibbs, who was cutting up the middle and went upfield for a 60-yard gain. Young similarly stepped up to avoid pressure on his touchdown pass to Bond soon after.
Young tossed over to Burton for 47 yards to set up his 1-yard TD pass to Latu that put Alabama ahead for good.
Towards the end of the first half, Kansas State drove to the Alabama 2, converting two fourth downs along the way, only to miss on fourth-and-goal when Howard threw out of reach of tight end Ben Sinnott, who was getting open after Will Anderson left. he fell while trying to cover it.
That missed opportunity proved costly.
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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.
Kansas State paid for taking another risk when Alabama recovered their onside kick to lead off the second half, which they scored shortly thereafter on a 32-yard pass from Young to Ja’Corey Brooks in the corner of the end zone.
THE TO TAKE
Kansas State: The Alabama 2’s missed opportunity, missed onside kick, and minus-2 turnover differential would have been hard to beat in any game, never mind against the first team to go out of the CFP. Howard finished 18 of 35 passing for 210 yards. Vaughn rushed for 133 yards on 22 carries. Jordan Schippers had a 1-yard TD run late on.
Alabama: After saying all week that they were treating the Sugar Bowl like a championship game, the Crimson Tide backed it up. The narrative that came through was that Alabama doesn’t rise up for low-stakes bowl games, having lost by two touchdowns apiece in its previous two Sugar Bowl appearances that weren’t part of the BCS or CFP. Alabama has now won 10 Sugar Bowls in 17 appearances.
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Kansas State: Opens its 2023 campaign at home against Southeastern Missouri on September 2.
Alabama – Hosts Middle Tennessee on September 2 to begin their 2023 season.