In part 3 of our tour through K-State bowl history, we covered a real down period in modern K-State football as the 11-year bowl streak was broken and the Wildcats started a decade-plus without a bowl victory. Today’s batch, covering from the 2012 season to today is more of a mixed bag, which at least makes it better than the previous batch.
2013 Fiesta Bowl
The 2012 season was a blast for K-State fans, as senior quarterback Collin Klein led the Wildcats to an 11-1 regular season record, Big 12 championship, and the verge of a BCS championship appearance. A nasty stumble at Baylor late in the season ended K-State’s championship aspirations, but the Big 12 championship was enough to earn the team’s third trip to the Fiesta Bowl, this time to face fourth-ranked Oregon in Chip Kelly’s final game with the Ducks.
The game got off to an inauspicious start, as Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown and the Ducks tacked on a 2-point conversion. Thomas scored another touchdown on a reception with 3:46 left in the first quarter to extend the lead to 15. Klein led a pair of scoring drives in the second quarter to bring the game within 5 points, 15-10, but that would be the closest K-State came to taking a lead. John Hubert’s 10-yard touchdown catch with 11:35 left in the game cut Oregon’s lead to 32-17. An Oregon field goal brought the game’s final score to 35-17.
2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
With Klein out of eligibility, the Wildcats turned to juco transfer Jake Waters to lead the offense in 2013, and K-State went 7-5 in the regular season. It wasn’t really as bad as that sounds, as the worst loss was on the road at Texas, which finished the season 8-5. But the biggest win of the season was at No. 25 Texas Tech.
With that record, the Wildcats earned a trip to Tempe for their third appearance in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, although all three were under different names. It was the Copper Bowl in 1993 and the Insight.com Bowl in 2001. It also has been simply the Insight Bowl, and now it is the Cactus Bowl (Hey, that’s where K-State is playing today!). The game was K-State’s first-ever meeting with the Michigan Wolverines, who went 7-5 under Brady Hoke.
K-State took charge in the first quarter, building a 14-3 lead on a pair of touchdown catches by Tyler Lockett, who picked up the hat trick late in the second quarter to push the Wildcats’ lead to 21-6. Ian Patterson added a field goal and Hubert ran for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, giving K-State a 31-6 advantage. The Wolverines finally found the end zone when Fitzgerald Toussaint ran three yards for a touchdown with 1:15 left and the game out of reach. A two-point conversion brought the final score to 31-14, K-State. It broke a 5-game and 11-year drought for a bowl victory.
2015 Alamo Bowl
With Waters and Lockett back, K-State made a two-game improvement on its regular season record in 2014, going 9-3 including a one-point victory at No. 11 Oklahoma, and the Wildcats were ranked No. 11 heading to the Alamo Bowl to face the 14th-ranked UCLA Bruins (Booooo!).
K-State fell into a big hole early, trailing 17-0 at the end of the first quarter and 31-6 at halftime, which made it impressive enough that the Wildcats made it a game after halftime. Touchdowns by Lockett and DeMarcus Robinson in the third quarter cut it to a two-score game, and when Jake Waters punched the ball in from one yard out with 4:54 left in the game to cut UCLA’s lead to 34-28, it looked like K-State actually could complete the comeback.
But then K-State gave up a 67-yard touchdown run by Paul Perkins. UCLA missed the two-point conversion, making the score 40-28, UCLA. Waters threw another touchdown to Lockett with 1:21 left, but K-State was unable to get the ball back afterward, resulting in the 40-35 final score in UCLA’s favor.
2016 Liberty Bowl
To start the 2015 season, Jesse Ertz was tabbed as Waters’ successor under center. That lasted all of one play before Ertz was knocked out for the season with an injury. The Wildcats still managed to start the season 3-0, but then they went on a six-game losing streak as backup Joe Hubener and converted wide receiver Kody Cook took over at quarterback. But they finished the year with wins against Iowa State, Kansas, and West Virginia to keep the new bowl streak alive, earning a spot in the Liberty Bowl against Arkansas.
It went about as well as their Cotton Bowl showdown four years earlier. Fullback Winston Dimel got K-State on the scoreboard first with a 10-yard touchdown run. Arkansas responded with their own touchdown, then K-State’s Matthew McCrane gave K-State another lead with a field goal, but Arkansas took the lead for good when Jared Cornelius ran for a 13-yard touchdown with 2:22 left in the first quarter.
K-State ended the first half and started the second half with scoring drives, including a 48-yard pass from Cook to Dimel, to cut Arkansas’ lead to 24-20, but that would be the closest K-State got. The Razorbacks won, 45-23.
2016 Texas Bowl
With a healthy-ish Jesse Ertz back under center, K-State went 8-4 in the 2016 regular season. Although they lost all of their games to ranked teams (plus a road trip to West Virginia), the Wildcats won their second Texas State Championship, defeating Texas Tech, Texas, Baylor, and TCU in Big 12 play. The final obstacle in K-State’s way to hold onto the title was Big 12 traitor Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl.
A&M was supposed to have the explosive offense with all that SEC speed, and they had the eventual No. 1 NFL draft pick, Myles Garrett, at defensive end. But K-State was having none of that. The Wildcats were the ones who scored on explosive plays, including a 79-yard reception by Byron Pringle and 52-yard run by Dominique Heath. As for Garrett, K-State’s play calling, blocking schemes, and redshirt freshman tackle Scott Frantz made Garrett essentially a non-factor.
It certainly wasn’t a runaway victory, as A&M held leads of 7-0 and 14-13, but the Wildcats had a 26-21 lead at the end of the third quarter, which they extended to 33-21 when Jesse Ertz drove into the end zone from a yard out with nine minutes left in the game. A&M responded with a touchdown just 70 seconds later, but K-State did just enough down the stretch to hold on, including stopping a fourth-and-eight attempt by A&M at the K-State 23. K-State won, 33-28, cementing its status at Texas State Champions.
2017 Cactus Bowl
Tonight the Wildcats play in the 2017 Cactus Bowl against UCLA. It is the eighth consecutive year K-State has qualified for a bowl game and K-State’s 21st bowl overall.