Led by sophomore quarterback Alex Delton, a former Hays High standout, Kansas State’s Wildcats football team found a second-half formula en route to a 35-17 victory over UCLA in Tuesday night’s Cactus Bowl in Phoenix.
Delton, who had missed much of the last half of the regular season with a concussion, came in relief of freshman Skylar Thompson, who struggled in the early going.
The Wildcats (8-5) found themselves trailing 17-7 at halftime, but the second half was all KSU and Delton. But a 28-0 explosion set the table for another strong K-State finish to the season.
Delton rushed 20 times for 158 yards, scoring three touchdowns on runs of 68 yards, his longest of his career, 1 and 3 yards. The Wildcats finished the game with 345 yards on 49 attempts. Delton also added in a TD pass, completing 7 of 10 passes for 52 yards.
Alex Barnes also helped the ‘Cats in the second half when he broke through for a 41-yard run that put KSU up 28-17 with 14:01 left in the game. Barnes also went over the century mark on the ground, finishing with 117 yards on 12 rushes.
Delton’s 3-yard scoot capped off a 15-play, 98-yard clincher that consumed 8 minutes, 6 seconds of the fourth quarter and kept the Bruins off the field and ended any chance of a big comeback of their own.
The Bruins, in the aftermath of a 6-7 season which saw head coach Jim Mora fired, will not have the coaching reins turned over to former Oregon coach Chip Kelly.
For K-State, meanwhile, it will be a waiting game to hear from veteran coach Bill Snyder, who is mulling a possible retirement in his second tenure as the ‘Cats head coach.
UCLA had taken an early 3-0 lead, before Delton’s 68-yard scamper at the end of the first period. The Bruins then scored twice on a pair of long TD passes from Devon Modster to Jordan Lasley (52 yards) and Theo Howard (70 yards) for the 10-point lead at the intermission.
The Wildcat win capped off a late-season run in which they won five of their final six games after a sluggish start.
Snyder’s record at Kansas State through 26 seasons (1989-2005 and 2009-present) stands at 210-110-1. By winning their second bowl game in a row, KSU is now 9-10 in postseason play under Snyder.