The Kansas State Wildcats‘ dream, championship season came to an end on a sour note on New Year’s Eve.
In their first-ever meeting with the Alabama Crimson Tide and in their first-ever appearance in the Sugar Bowl, the Wildcats’ picked up their fourth loss of the season and were slammed by the first team left out of the College Football Playoff field 45-20.
With the loss, K-State finishes the year with a 10-4 record.
The Wildcats led 10-0 in the first quarter thanks to a field goal by senior kicker Ty Zentner and an 88-yard touchdown run by junior running back Deuce Vaughn.
From that point on, however, the Crimson Tide rolled. Alabama scored the final 21 points of the first half and at one point scored 35 unanswered points, putting the game out of reach early in the third quarter.
Alabama outgained K-State by 95 yards of offense and won the turnover battle 2-0.
Wildcats junior quarterback Will Howard struggled for much of the game, going 18-of-35 passing for 210 yards with two interceptions. He was also sacked twice. Vaughn, in what may have been his final game at K-State, recorded 22 carries for 133 yards and the long score, marking the 21st 100-yard rushing game of his college career.
Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young, who is a candidate to be the top pick in this spring’s NFL draft, completed 15-of-21 passes for 321 yards and five touchdowns against the Wildcats’ defense. Only one Alabama player, tight end Cameron Latu, had more than three catches, and all five of Young’s touchdown passes went to different receivers.
Even with the big loss in the bowl game, K-State’s first appearance in a New Year’s Six game since that designation debuted in 2015, it was a hugely successful year for coach Chris Klieman and the Wildcats. K-State won 10 games for the first time since the 2012 season and won just the fourth conference championship in program history.