Once Kansas State fell out of the New Year’s bowl picture, it became a no-brainer.
The No. 11-ranked Wildcats were headed to the Alamo.
K-State accepted an invitation Sunday afternoon to face No. 14 UCLA in the Jan. 2 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. Kickoff will be at 5:45 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN.
K-State coach Bill Snyder wasted no time getting up to speed on UCLA, already reeling off names and numbers less than two hours after the official announcement.
“It’s a very challenging preparation for us,” Snyder said of the Bruins, who like K-State bring a 9-3 record into the game. “I have great admiration for Jim (Mora) and what he’s done there.”
In his three years at UCLA, Mora has won 28 games, including 10 a year ago. The Bruins, who went 6-3 in the Pac-12 had won five straight games before falling 31-10 to Stanford in their regular-season finale on Nov. 28.
“You look at the talent that they have,” Snyder said. “(Brett) Hundley is a very, very efficient and effective quarterback, throwing over 70 percent.
“He’s the leading passer, or close to it, in UCLA history and their running back (Paul Perkins) is likewise averaging 115 to 120 yards per ballgame and over his career has been very successful.
“It’s really a program that’s been going in an extremely positive direction.”
K-State also has headed in a positive direction since Snyder came out of a three-year retirement for the 2009 season and is leading the Wildcats to their fifth straight bowl game. They played for a share of their second Big 12 title in three years Saturday but lost 38-27 at Baylor.
It was a bad final weekend for the Big 12, which saw co-champions Baylor (fifth) and TCU (sixth) left out of the College Football Playoff draw by the selection committee, K-State slip just far enough to be the highest-ranked team left out of the CFP New Year’s bowls and Oklahoma stumble out of the top 25 with a loss to Oklahoma State.
K-State athletic director John Currie had held out hope that the Wildcats could receive a bid to the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl or Peach Bowl, but had no complaints about the consolation prize.
“We were very close,” Currie said. “Several polls had us 10th or 11th, and where the bowl committee had us finish at 11th we were the next one out essentially.
“(But) there’s 118 teams that would like to be where we are right now and I know that our 12,000 alums in Texas are looking forward to having us head down that way.”
Despite the disappointment of the Baylor loss, Snyder said he expects the Wildcat players to go back to work with renewed enthusiasm during bowl preparations. After taking Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off, they’ll meet Thursday and return to practice on Friday.
“Having the opportunity to play against UCLA and a Jim Mora-coached football team is a great challenge for us, and one that I’m sure our youngsters will be excited to get invested in,” he said.
K-State and UCLA have met twice previously with the Bruins winning at home in 2009 and the Wildcats returning the favor the following year in Manhattan.
It will be the second Alamo Bowl appearance for the Wildcats, who were ranked No. 4 nationally when they fell 37-34 to Purdue in the 1998 game after being upset by Texas A&M for the Big 12 championship. UCLA will be making its first visit to San Antonio.
Currie said ticket sales already have been brisk for the game. Public tickets for K-State fans who did not place a pre-order are available now at the K-State online ticket office at www.kstatesports.com/tickets and through the ticket office in Bramlage Coliseum or via phone at 1-800-221-CATS.
“This is obviously a wonderful destination,” Currie said. “The state of Texas is our number one source of out-of-state students and our number one destination for our alumni after they graduate.
“Certainly we have a number of student-athletes in all of our programs from the state of Texas and it’s a great destination, so I know we’ll have a really tremendous crowd.”