Tide rolls over Kansas State, 45-20, in the Sugar Bowl

Published: Dec. 31, 2022 at 3:14 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WBRC) - After falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter, Alabama scored 35 unanswered points on their way to a 45-20 win over Kansas State in the 89th Sugar Bowl on Saturday.

“I think the guys that were here today, the team that was here today is really representative of what the University of Alabama and our program is all about,” head coach Nick Saban said during the Sugar Bowl trophy presentation. “They made a commitment and a great sacrifice to prepare for this game. They worked hard and certainly played well today and I’m really, really proud of them.”

Despite a slow start in first few drives, Bryce Young came alive in what many expect to be his final game with the University of Alabama throwing for 321 yards and five touchdowns.

After seeing their first drive end with a Jordan Battle interception, Kansas State forced the Tide’s offense to two punts, getting a 41 yard field goal in the process to go up 3-0.

On the first play of their third drive of the game, Wildcat running back Deuce Vaughn took the ball 88 yards to the endzone to put the Big Ten champions up 10-0 in the first quarter. The touchdown run was the second longest run from scrimmage in Sugar Bowl history.

It would be the Wildcats only touchdown until the fourth quarter.

“Being down 10-0, I think all the leaders did a really good job on defense,” said Will Anderson after the game. “Byron Young did a good job getting his guys going. I did a good job getting my guys going. Henry To’oTo’o did a good job getting his guys; Jordan Battle. But we all came together as a defense.”

After an incomplete pass and a rush for no-gain, Alabama’s offense found the spark it was looking for when Young completed a short pass to Jahmyr Gibbs who then ran to the Wildcats’ 9-yard-line for a 60-yard gain. Two plays later, Isaiah Bond caught his first touchdown pass of the season when he pulled in a 6-yard throw from Young to cut the lead to 10-7.

Young, who was named Sugar Bowl MVP, said that even through the rough start, he and his teammates trusted each other to pull through.

“It wasn’t always perfectly smooth, especially at the beginning, but through ups and downs we lean on each other throughout the year. I have all the confidence in my guys, and we lean on each other, we play for each other. When things aren’t looking too good, we know we can lean on each other, and we did that today.”

Alabama’s first drive of the second quarter saw another big play from Young as he dropped a 47-yard pass into the hands of Jermaine Burton near the goal line. Two plays later, Young found Cameron Latu to the left side to go up 14-10.

Burton would be Young’s next touchdown target when he caught a 12-yard pass just before halftime, but not before Jahmyr Gibbs rushed for 22 yards and Young tossed two passes for more than 20 yards each to get the Crimson Tide into scoring position.

‘Bama only needed three plays in the second half to score again, this time Young to Ja’Corey Brooks for a 32-yard touchdown to make it 28-10.

The Wildcats, needing to score to get back in the game, saw the ensuing drive end when Howard threw his second interception of the night, this time picked off by Brian Branch deep in Kansas State territory.

“He made some big plays today,” Saban said about Branch, who also recorded two sacks against the Wildcats. “The interception was big. We got off to a great start in the second half with a big play and two scores in the first two minutes in the second half, which kind of broke the game open. His interception was a big part of that.”

McClellan only needed his number called once to run 17 yards for another Alabama touchdown.

Trailing 35-10, Kansas State got into Alabama territory again midway through the third quarter, but their drive stalled at the 10-yard-line. The Wildcats settled for a 28-yard field goal, cutting the lead down 35-10.

As the clock hit all zeroes on the third quarter, Kobe Prentice caught a pass from Young and ran 32 yards to give Alabama a comfortable 42-13 lead going into the final quarter.

Even though the Wildcats would manage another touchdown late in the game when Jordan Schippers rushed for a one-yard score, a 49-yard field goal from Will Reichard capped things off for Alabama’s offense as the Tide celebrated another Sugar Bowl victory.

“I’m blessed to have the teammates that I do. These are my brothers and I got presented with the opportunity to play with them and I couldn’t pass that down,” Young said when asked about the decision to play in the bowl game. “We pride ourselves on leadership. We pride ourselves on doing everything for the team and our standard and I live by that.”

Saban praised his team and their leadership after the game.

“That’s when you have the best teams. when you have guys that are great players that care about their teammates,” Saban said. “They set a great example and do a great job in terms being leaders and caring about their teammates.”

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