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No. 9 K-State Battles No. 5 Alabama in Allstate Sugar Bowl

K-State Athletics ReleaseDecember 22, 2022

89th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl
9/11/9 K-State vs. 5/5/5 Alabama

Date: Saturday, December 31, 2022

Kickoff: 11 a.m.

Location: New Orleans, La.

Stadium: Caesars Superdome (68,500)

Series: First Meeting

TV: ESPN (watch)

Dave Pasch (Play-by-Play)

Dusty Dvoracek (Analyst)

Tom Luginbill (Sidelines)

National Radio: ESPN Radio

            Sean Kelley (Play-by-Play)

            Aaron Murray (Analyst)

            Stormy Buonantony (Sidelines)

K-State Radio: K-State Sports Network; k-statesports.com (Listen)

            Wyatt Thompson (Play-by-Play)

            Stan Weber (Analyst)

            Matt Walters (Sidelines)

SiriusXM Satellite Radio Ch. 83 and 81

Twitter Updates: @KStateFB

TEAM NOTES
WILDCATS HEADED TO ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL

  • Fresh off a 31-28 victory over No. 3 TCU in the 2022 Big 12 Championship, Kansas State received its 24th bowl berth all time and third under head coach Chris Klieman as the ninth-ranked Wildcats will face No. 5 Alabama in the 89th annual Allstate Sugar Bowl on Saturday, December 31.
  • Of K-State’s 24 total bowl appearances all-time, 22 of those have come in the last 30 seasons.
  • The Wildcats hold a 10-13 record in bowl games and are looking to win their fourth bowl game in their last five appearances. It would be the first time in school history the Wildcats won four bowls in five tries.
  • This will mark the eighth different state in which K-State has traveled to bowl games. The most frequent are Arizona (4-Copper/Insight/Buffalo Wild Wings/Cactus, 3-Fiesta) and Texas (3-Cotton, 3-Texas, 2-Alamo).


K-STATE IN LOUISIANA

  • Kansas State is looking to turn around its fortune in the Pelican State as the Wildcats are 0-4 all-time in games played in the state of Louisiana.
  • Included in that stretch is a 0-1 mark in New Orleans having lost at Tulane, 20-16, in 1988 inside the Superdome.
  • K-State’s last game in the state of Louisiana came in 2009 when it lost to Louisiana, 17-15, on a last-minute field goal in Lafayette.


CATS AND CRIMSON TIDE

  • Kansas State and Alabama will meet for the first time ever on the gridiron in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
  • It will be just the sixth time the Wildcats have faced a team from the state Alabama, going 1-4 in the previous five games.
  • The Wildcats defeated Troy at home in 2003, while they are 0-4 all-time against Auburn. The Tigers are the last team from the state of Alabama the Wildcats have faced, which came in a 20-14 setback at home in 2014.


K-STATE AND THE SEC

  • K-State will be playing its 139th game all-time against current members of the SEC, but 107 of those meetings were against either Missouri or Texas A&M as Big Eight/12 foes.
  • It marks the second-straight season the Wildcats will face an SEC team in bowl play and the fourth in the Wildcats’ last six bowl games. K-State has won each of its last two bowl meetings with SEC teams, defeating LSU in last year’s Texas Bowl (42-20) and Texas A&M in the 2016 Texas Bowl (33-28).
  • Under head coach Chris Klieman, Kansas State is 3-0 against SEC opponents. The Wildcats won at Mississippi State, 31-24, in 2019, defeated LSU in last year’s Texas Bowl, and took down Missouri, 40-12, earlier this season.


BOWLING AGAIN

  • In an era of college football where over 80 teams play in bowl games each year, K-State is one of just 19 Power 5 schools to advance to a bowl in 11 of the last 13 years.
  • The Wildcats are one of four Big 12 teams to accomplish the feat, joining Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
  • Since 1993, Kansas State has advanced to 23 bowl games, which is tied for 16th nationally and fourth in the Big 12.

BIG 12 CHAMPS

  • Kansas State earned its third Big 12 title with a 31-28 overtime victory over No. 3 TCU in the 2022 Dr. Pepper Big 12 Championship on December 3.
  • The victory was the second for the Wildcats in a conference championship game as they took down No. 1 Oklahoma, 35-7, in 2003.
  • Kansas State earned its first conference title since finishing with an 8-1 record in 2012 as there was no conference championship game conducted that year.
  • It was the fourth ever conference title for the Wildcats, who also won the Big Six in 1934 with a 5-0 record.

ONE OF THE BIG 12’S BEST

  • Kansas State has been one of the best Big 12 teams since the inception of the conference in 1996. The Wildcats are third with 134 victories, trailing only Oklahoma and Texas.
  • The Wildcats are also third in the conference in winning percentage since round-robin play began in 2011. They sit at 59.3% (64-44), trailing only Oklahoma (77.6%; 83-25) and Oklahoma State (64.8%; 70-38).

SEVEN CONFERENCE WINS

  • K-State finished the regular season with a 7-2 mark in Big 12 play. It was the seventh time the Wildcats won seven conference games and the first time they hit that mark since 2014.

TRYIN TO TIE A RECORD

  • Kansas State will be in search of its 11th victory this season during the Sugar Bowl, which would tie a school record.
  • The Wildcats have won 11 games on seven occasions, most recently in 2012. The Wildcats also won 11 games in 1997, 1998, 199, 2000, 2002 and 2003.
  • Kansas State has already clinched its 11th season with double-digit victories. The other campaigns with 10 or more wins other than those listed above include 1910, 1995 and 2011.

QUICK STARTS

  • Kansas State enters bowl season leading the Big 12 in first-half scoring (276 points) and ranking second in league in first-half scoring differential (+126).
  • Second on the list in first-half points is TCU with 256, while Texas is close behind with 255.
  • The Wildcats and Texas are the only two Big 12 teams with a first-half scoring differential of over 100 points.

TAKING DOWN TOP-10s

  • K-State earned its third victory over an AP Top-10 team this season when it knocked off No. 3 TCU in the Big 12 Championship. It is the first time in school history the Wildcats have taken down multiple AP Top-10 teams in one season.
  • Kansas State also defeated then-No. 6 Oklahoma, 41-34, in Norman on Sept. 24, while they shut out then-No. 9 Oklahoma State, 48-0, at home on Oct. 29.
  • The Wildcats are now 6-3 in their last nine games against top-10 teams dating back to Nov. 18, 2017, a span that began with a 45-40 victory at No. 10 Oklahoma State. Prior to that, the Cats were just 1-15 in their previous 16 tries.
  • Under head coach Chris Klieman, the Wildcats have defeated five teams ranked in the top 10 by the Associated Press.

A WINNING HISTORY

  • A proven winner with a championship history, Chris Klieman holds a 102-32 career record, as his 76.1% career winning percentage ranks third among current FBS coaches that are in at least their 10th season. He is also one of just 16 current Power 5 head coaches with at least 100 victories.
  • Klieman, who is 30-19 since arriving at K-State, came to Manhattan after capping his five-year stint as head coach at North Dakota State by winning his fourth national championship in 2018. He guided the 2018 Bison to a perfect 15-0 record.
  • Klieman is 7-6 in his career against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 with six of the victories coming at K-State.

TAKING CARE OF THE FOOTBALL

  • A staple of K-State football over the past decade has been committing very few turnovers, as the Wildcats are second in the nation among Power 5 teams in fewest turnovers since 2012 (164).
  • That figure leads the Big 12 as the Wildcats are 17 better than the next closest program (Oklahoma, 181).
  • The Wildcats enter the bowl season ranked fifth nationally and tops in the Big 12 in turnover margin (+1.08 / game). They are plus-14 on the year with 24 takeaways and 10 turnovers.
  • K-State has not finished in the top 10 nationally in turnover margin since 2016 when it finished fourth (+1.00 per game). The current turnover margin would be K-State’s best since it finished at +1.46 per game in 2012 to rank third nationally.

TOP-NOTCH DISCIPLINE

  • K-State has been one of the most disciplined teams in the Big 12, ranking third with 43.2 penalty yards per game.
  • The Wildcats have been under 40 penalty yards in eight contests and 30 yards or fewer four times.

CATS TOPS IN NON-OFFENSIVE TOUCHDOWNS

  • K-State is the nation’s best in non-offensive touchdowns over the last 23 seasons as it has 129 since 1999, seven more than the next closest team (Alabama – 122).
  • Kansas State has three non-offensive scores this year. The Wildcats began the year with a blocked punt return touchdown by Desmond Purnell.
  • The next week against Missouri, Phillip Brooks took a punt 76 yards for a score.
  • Then, at West Virginia, Cincere Mason returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown, the Wildcats’ first pick-6 since 2020.
  • Of the 129 non-offensive scores since 1999, 43 have been punt returns, 40 interception returns, 33 kickoff returns, 11 fumble returns and 2 missed/blocked field goal returns.

OFFENSIVE NOTES
KLEIN IS ONE OF FOUR

  • A 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist and one of the best signal callers in school history, Collin Klein is in his first season as K-State’s offensive coordinator.
  • Klein is one of just four Power 5 offensive coordinators to play quarterback at the school in which they worked in 2022. The other three are Brandon Streeter (Clemson), Tommy Rees (Notre Dame) and Tavita Pritchard (Stanford).

SCORING SURGE
• K-State has averaged 38.7 points per game over the last six games, a mark that ranks first in the Big 12 and ninth nationally among Power 5 schools.

  • When looking at Big 12-only games, K-State ranked second in the league in scoring, averaging 35.2 points per Big 12 game.
  • The Wildcats have scored at least 34 points seven times this season, their most since the 2015 campaign.
  • K-State topped 45 points each of the final two weeks of the regular season – scoring 48 points at West Virginia and 47 points against Kansas. It was the first time the Wildcats totaled at least 45 points in consecutive Big 12 games since scoring 55 in back-to-back games against West Virginia and Texas Tech in 2012.

    TOTAL OFFENSE
    • K-State totaled at least 375 yards in all nine conference games in addition to the Big 12 Championship. It marked the first time ever in Big 12 play (since 1996) that the Wildcats totaled at least 375 yard in every league game.

  • Overall, the Wildcats have averaged 420.2 yards of offense, which currently ranks fifth in school history.
  • With 280 yards in the Sugar Bowl, the Wildcats will rank second in school history in total offensive yards.
  • K-State averaged 6.57 yards per play in Big 12 games, which was just 0.02 yards per play shy of first.

EFFICIENCY ON THE GROUND…
• The Wildcats enter the Sugar Bowl ranked 17th nationally and 11th among Power 5 teams with 209.6 rushing yards per game.

  • This year’s squad has 2,725 rushing yards to rank fifth in school history, while their 5.14 yards per rush ranks third.
  • The Wildcats had a season-high 343 rushing yards against Texas Tech, their most in a Big 12 game since posting 345 yards against Oklahoma State in 2016.

    …AND THROUGH THE AIR
    • Although the Cats do not air it out as much as their Big 12 brethren, they are efficient and have some explosive plays.

  • K-State’s current 63.3% completion percentage ranks sixth in school history, while the Wildcats have thrown only four interceptions this season to rank fourth nationally. K-State’s current 1.13% interception clip is the lowest in school history.
  • Additionally, K-State holds a team passing efficiency mark of 145.5 to rank eighth in school history.
  • Since the Oklahoma State game in Week 9, the Wildcats hold a 156.8 passing rating to rank sixth among Power 5 teams and first in the Big 12.

    WHERE THERE’S A WILL…
    • Quarterback Will Howard has thrown for 15 touchdowns in his last six games played, tied for the most in five-consecutive games by a Wildcat in which they played (Ell Roberson, 2003).

  • He enters bowl season ranked sixth in the Big 12 in passing touchdowns (15), tied for seventh in touchdowns responsible for (18) and 10th in total passing yards (1,423) despite only playing in six contests.
  • Impressively, two of Howard’s games have come in relief, throwing for two scores at TCU and three more at Baylor.
  • In Howard’s first start of the season – a 48-0 win at Oklahoma State – he tied the school record with four touchdown passes while also setting a career high with 296 passing yards.
  • It was the first time a Wildcat had four passing touchdowns in a game since Jesse Ertz in the 2017 season opener against Central Arkansas, while it was the first against a Big 12 opponent since Jake Waters against Kansas in 2014.
  • Each of his scoring strikes against the Cowboys came in the first half, marking the third time in school history a player had four in a half. The other two were by Michael Bishop (1997 vs. Northern Illinois) and Paul Watson (1988 vs. Louisiana Tech).

VERY EFFICIENT
• Will Howard enters the Sugar Bowl with a season passing efficiency mark of 162.2, which is currently the top mark in school history (minimum 100 attempts).

  • Second on the list is Michael Bishop, who had a 159.6 mark in 1998.
  • Howard’s 134.5 career pass efficiency rating is seventh in school history. That number has been given a big boost this year as he entered the season with a 114.1 mark.

    VAUGHN BACK AT IT
    • A First Team All-American, Deuce Vaughn ranks 11th nationally and second in the Big 12 with 1,425 rushing yards.

  • Vaughn also ranks 10th nationally and second in the Big 12 in scrimmage yards (rushing plus receiving) per game at 136.9.
  • A threat virtually every time he touches the ball, Vaughn has gone for at least 10 yards on 139 of his 745 career scrimmage touches (18.7%) and at least 20 yards 51 times (6.8%).

    ALL-PURPOSE BACK
    • The high marks by Deuce Vaughn are not only due to his prowess as a runner, but he has been one of the best backs in the nation on the receiving end as he has 3,471 rushing yards and 1,280 receiving yards over his 36 career games.

  • He was the fastest player in Big 12 history to go over 3,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a career, reaching those marks in his 32nd career game. He was also tied for the fastest to get there by any player in the country since 1996 with Penn State’s Saquan Barkley and Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols.

    GOING 70
    • Deuce Vaughn has five career games in which he has totaled at least 70 rushing yards and 70 receiving yards, including this year against Texas (73 rush/86 rec) and Kansas (147 rush/82 rec).

  • In the Big 12 era, no other player has more than three such games in their career, which includes former Wildcat Darren Sproles.
  • Besides the Texas and Kansas games, Vaughn’s other 70/70 games have come against Kansas (2020 and 2021) and Texas Tech (2020).

    HITTING 1,000 AGAIN
    • Deuce Vaughn reached the 1,000-yard mark for a second-straight year as he currently has 1,425 yards to rank fourth in school history.

  • He is just the third player in school history with multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons, joining Darren Sproles (2002, 2003, 2004) and Daniel Thomas (2009, 2010).

 

NOT JUST A BLOCKER
• Sophomore tight end Ben Sinnott has been on fire as of late, combining for 286 yards and four touchdowns on 17 catches over the last six games. Included in that stretch were career highs in catches (7), yards (89) and touchdowns (2) at Baylor.

  • It was the first time a K-State tight end had multiple touchdowns in a game since Jarrett Grosdidier against Indiana State in 1996, while it was the most receptions by a Wildcat tight end since Rashaad Norwood also had seven at Baylor in 2006.
  • His 399 receiving yards this season are the eighth most in school history by a tight end.

DEFENSIVE NOTES
A BIG TURNAROUND
• The K-State defense switched from a four-man front to a 3-3-5 alignment in 2021, and the change has paid off.

  • In the 25 games since the defensive switch, the Cats are allowing just 20.5 points per game, which ranks 21st nationally and second in the Big 12. Additionally, they are allowing only 355.4 yards per game over that time, which ranks second in the league.
  • Over the 2019 and 2020 seasons, K-State allowed 26.1 points per game and 401.6 yards.

LOCKDOWN DEFENSE
• K-State has held its opponent out of the end zone on four occasions this season, including three in Big 12 play.

  • The last time the Wildcats did not surrender a touchdown in four games overall was 2002 (Western Kentucky, Louisiana-Monroe, Kansas and Missouri).
  • The last time the Wildcats did give up a touchdown in three Big 12 games was 2001 (Kansas, Iowa State, Missouri).

STOUT IN THE SECOND HALF
• Kansas State’s second-half adjustments on defense have been masterful over the last six games as the Wildcats have only surrendered a combined 33-second half points against Oklahoma State (0), Texas (3), Baylor (0), West Virginia (6), Kansas (6) and TCU (18).

  • For the season, K-State is allowing an average of just 8.5 points in second halves.

UNDER AVERAGE
• K-State held all of its Big 12 opponents this year under their season averages coming into the game.

  • Since head coach Chris Klieman’s first year of 2019, the Wildcats have held 30 of their 37 Big 12 opponents under their season average at the time it faces the Wildcats.

PICK ME, PICK ME
• K-State has recorded 16 interceptions to rank sixth in the nation and tops in the Big 12. They have multiple interceptions in six games this year, carding four against Missouri and two apiece against Tulane, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Baylor and West Virginia.

  • Five of the 16 interceptions have come from linebackers, the most from that position group for a season since 1998 when Jeff Kelly (3) and Mark Simoneau (2) combined for five.

THIRD/FOURTH DOWN DEFENSE
• A year after ranking 78th nationally and sixth in the Big 12 by allowing a 35.4% conversion rate on third down, K-State enters bowl season ranked 25th in the country and third in the conference with a 33.7% rate.

  • The Wildcats have allowed their opponents to convert on third down under 50% of the time in 10 of 13 games this season, including the Big 12 Championship game when TCU was just 2-of-15 on third downs.
  • On fourth downs, K-State ranks 20th nationally by allowing a 39.4% clip, which is its lowest rate allowed since 2018 (37.5%).

KING FELIX
• After making a name for himself in 2021, Felix Anudike-Uzomah has kept things going in 2022 as he was named an All-American by multiple outlets and was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year by both the coaches and the Associated Press.

  • A Lott IMPACT Trophy finalist and semifinalist for the Bednarik and Rotary Lombardi awards, Anudike-Uzomah has 8.5 sacks this season to lead the Big 12 in total sacks, while he has a pair of forced fumbles to tie for third in the Big 12.
  • A product of Kansas City, Missouri, Anudike-Uzomah has 20.5 career sacks to tie for sixth in school history. He also has eight career forced fumbles, as he is just one shy of the school record currently held by three others.
  • Anudike-Uzomah is ranked 21st on the Pro Football Focus 2023 NFL Draft Big Board, which is impressive considering he came to K-State in 2020 ranked as the 114th-best weakside defensive end and 2,421st overall player (247Sports).

OLD FACE, NEW PLACE
• Safety Josh Hayes is in his sixth year of college football and third school after transferring in the spring from Virginia.

  • However, Hayes, a product of Lakeland, Florida, reunited with head coach Chris Klieman and defensive coordinator/safeties coach Joe Klanderman in Manhattan after the trio were together at North Dakota State. Hayes played as a true freshman and sophomore in 2017 and 2018 under Klieman before he became the K-State head coach for the 2019 season.
  • Hayes has played in 67 career games, which is tied for second in the nation among active FBS players and tops in the Big 12.

SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
SCORING IN THE THIRD PHASE
• One of the main reasons the Wildcats have been a successful program the last three decades is a knack for momentum-swinging plays in the return game.

  • Since 2005 (18 seasons), the Wildcats have a combined 60 kickoff- and punt-return touchdowns, 21 more than second-place Alabama (39) and 26 more than the next closest Big 12 team (Oklahoma State – 34).
  • Of the 60 total returns, a nation-leading 31 are on kickoff returns. The next closest team is San Diego State with 20.
  • With two punt-return touchdowns this season, K-State has now tallied a punt-return score in every season since 2014, as the nine-year stretch is the longest in school history.

DEFENSE ON KICKOFF RETURNS
• Kansas State has not allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown since the 2013 season, going the last 380 returns without allowing opponents to find paydirt on a kickoff return.

  • The streak is the longest in the Big 12, 31 more than the next closest team (TCU – 349).
  • Since K-State allowed its last kickoff-return touchdown, the Wildcats have scored 14 of their own.

A TRIPLE THREAT
• Senior Ty Zentner handled both punting and kickoff duties for the Wildcats throughout the season, while he has been the primary place kicker in the last six games.

  • Zentner is one of only three players in the nation – and the only one at a Power 5 school – to handle all three disciplines. The other two are Ryan Coe (Cincinnati) and Jack Browning (San Diego State).

ZENTNER GREAT AT PUNTING…
• Ty Zentner has taken advantage of his second senior season in 2022 as the 2022 All-Big 12 Second Team performer is trying to leave K-State near the top of multiple top-10 lists.

  • A product of Topeka, Kansas, Zentner was named a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award. He enters bowl season ranked 17th nationally, second in the Big 12 and second in school history with a 44.7-yard average this season. Additionally, he is second in K-State history in career average (43.4).
  • Those averages are held up by eight career games with an average of at least 45.0, including a 54.2-yard average against Missouri, which ranked as the second-highest punting average  game in school history (minimum 4 attempts).
  • Zentner, who held a 62.7-yard average on three punts against Kansas, boomed a career-long 72-yard punt. It is the longest punt in the Big 12 this season and the longest by a Wildcat since James Garcia hit a 78-yarder at Texas in 1998.

… AND PLACEMENTS
• Ty Zentner’s prowess as a punter is impressive considering that he has also handled placements over the last six games and continued to kick off.

  • Since taking over placements starting with the Oklahoma State game, Zentner has gone 9-for-9 on field goals and 29-for-29 on extra points.
  • His latest field goal will be remembered in K-State lore as it was a 31-yarder in overtime to send K-State to a 31-28 victory over No. 3 TCU in the Big 12 Championship.
  • At West Virginia, Zentner hit a 53-yarder right before halftime, which was tied for the 10th-longest field goal in school history and one yard shy of the longest in the Big 12 this season.
  • On kickoffs, Zentner has totaled 49 touchbacks on 82 attempts this year (59.8%), while he is 129-for-217 (59.4%) in his career.

KNOWLES WITH A KNACK
• Malik Knowles is the latest Wildcat with a knack for kickoff returns as he is tied for fourth in school history in career kickoff return touchdowns thanks to scores last year in back-to-back weeks at Oklahoma State and against Oklahoma in addition to one at Mississippi State in 2019.

  • A product of Mansfield, Texas, Knowles currently ranks second in school history in career kickoff-return yards (1,674), tied for third in attempts (60), tied for fourth in touchdowns (3) and  sixth in average (27.9).

BROOKS BACK IN THE END ZONE
• Phillip Brooks recorded his fourth career punt-return touchdown against Missouri, a 76-yarder en route to Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

  • His 76-yard return is the 12th longest in the nation and second longest in the Big 12 this year.
  • His four punt-return touchdowns rank second in school history and are tied for sixth in Big 12 history. He also ranks fifth in both punt-return yards (640) and average (15.2), while he is tied for ninth in attempts (42).

Copyright © Meridian Media, 2023. All Rights Reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced without Meridian Media’s express consent.

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