PHOENIX, Ariz. – Kansas State rushed for a team bowl record 344 yards, including a K-State individual bowl game high 158 from quarterback Alex Delton, and used 28 unanswered second half points to rush past UCLA for a Cactus Bowl crown late Tuesday night at Chase Field. Delton came off the bench and took his first touch to the house for 68 yards, the first of three rushing touchdowns and four total scores the Cactus Bowl Offensive MVP.
Nine different Wildcats logged rushes with Alex Barnes joining Delton over the century mark with 117 yards, 41 of which came on a fourth quarter, fourth-down conversion to help put the game away. K-State tallied 344 total rushing yards to surpass the 329 yards rushed against Tennessee in the 2001 Cotton Bowl against Tennessee. Delton's total topped Josh Scobey's mark of 150 in the same game and was the sixth-highest rushing total by a K-State quarterback in any contest.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Cats trailed 17-7 at the half but used Delton's shortest run - a fourth-and-inches push - to open scoring in the third quarter. Denzel Goolsby locked up Cactus Bowl Defensive MVP honors with a strip and fumble recovery on the ensuing possession, then used the short field to surge ahead 21-14 when Dominique Heath juked a defender and took a Delton pass in for an eight-yard score. Barnes made it a 21-0 run when he cut back on another fourth down conversion and scampered 41 yards less than a minute into the fourth quarter. Late in the game, Delton keyed a 15-play, 98-yard drive that chewed up 8:06 of game clock, then punched it in from three yards out for the final tally. In all, K-State possessed the ball for 35:07 in the contest.
With the win over UCLA, K-State closed its season with an 8-5 record, marking the sixth time in the last seven years that the Wildcats have tallied at least eight wins and the 16th time in head coach Bill Snyder's 26 years leading the program.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Delton's career-high 158 yards was the most ever by a K-State player in a bowl game and sixth-highest rushing total by a Wildcat quarterback in any contest. Delton, who missed the last three and a half games of the regular season and didn't start Tuesday night's contest, took his first touch to the house for a 68-yard touchdown. It was the first of three rushing touchdowns for the Cactus Bowl Offensive MVP.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Goolsby was one of four Wildcats to tally more than five stops in the game but one play sealed the Cactus Bowl Defensive MVP honors and perhaps saved the game for the Wildcats. Goolsby stripped UCLA tailback Bo Olorunfunmi on the first play of UCLA's second drive of the second half, setting up a short field and go-ahead scoring drive for K-State.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
K-State Head Coach Bill Snyder
"I will say this, that you got me up here but that's not the deal. We've got so many people to be proud of at Kansas State University and it starts with our players, quite obviously. But our support staff and the people that help organize this program, help organize the event, the travel, et cetera, do an amazing job as well. Our fan base, you know, those of you that are new to our program. I mean, you see it in action. They're genuine, caring people. They truly care about Kansas State University and they're awfully special. And obviously our coaching staff and I'm awful proud of each one of them and as I said each of our players, the two that are coming in. We've got some others, I think, that you'll visit with, are very special people.
"As I said to them afterwards, you know, it's not just the come-from-behind victory, that's three ball games in a row they've done that. That just shows the shortcoming that we need to start better. But by the same token, to do it with the class that our young guys did it with. And I hope you recognize that as well. I'm truly proud of them.
"And the Yellow Jackets and the Cactus Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, et cetera, et cetera, always amazing. Like somebody said a moment ago, I've been out here 500 times, and we've always been treated with great respect. We've always been treated with wonderful hospitality. People that genuinely care, do anything and everything they can to help out our players and our staff.
"I not only appreciate them a great deal, but I admire them immensely for what they do and the sacrifices they make and the volunteer aspect of it.
"And the last thing I'll say was the event that I'm so pleased that the Cactus Bowl put on in conjunction with the Salvation Army, the Christmas event that took place with the Salvation Army over at the convention center, right around the corner, was really an amazing event. They told me that they fed somewhere in the vicinity of 5,000 people. Our players, every single one of them, went over there, volunteered to help and really enjoyed doing it, enjoyed spending time with the young people, the young children that were there and some of the older people there, far less privileged than ourselves. And what it really meant, not only meant a great deal to the people that were there but it meant a great deal to our players as well because they're those kind of gentlemen, that they love helping other people. And they did so and did it with a smile on their face. The lady that runs the Salvation Army and ran that event told me afterwards, and it was her words, said that was the most remarkable event that we have ever had; your players were absolutely remarkable and the best that they've ever had. They've never had a full team there. They've never had a head coach there, and she was very respectful of that. And as I said, and I told her, our people enjoyed it every bit as much as everybody else did. So that's all I have to say."
On using Alex Delton and sticking with him throughout the game...
"He had 105 yards rushing at halftime. We've never had 105 yards rushing — don't ask me how stupid I am. You go with what brung ya, right? Not that Skylar wasn't doing a good job. But Alex — and we knew going in that was something we had to be able to do was run the ball with him. And Skylar can run it as well no doubt about that. But Alex, the proof's in the pudding. He ran it well."
On Denzel Goolsby's timely forced fumble and recovery...
"It's quite possible that was the biggest play in the ballgame itself. Depending on how the offense responded. But they responded the right way. We've been blessed to have this young man step in and do the kind of job he's done, not just tonight but throughout the course of the season. And he's just a very steady play and does things the right way, which I admire and appreciate a great deal."
On using this season's end as a spring board going forward...
"It's pretty obvious we'd have to change course because we didn't take advantage of the strong finish that we had last year. As you know we were not a real good football team earlier in the season. So whatever that approach was, we're going to have to change it. And the main thing is every year's different. And the dynamics are different regardless of how many young guys you have back, et cetera. And it's still about the same process. And you've heard that, so I won't repeat all the things that we talk about, what our program's about and what the process is about, but that is indeed — they understand it. It's just a matter of doing it. It's up to them and not getting too far ahead of ourselves like I think we did. You heard me say that, too.
"I think we got ahead of ourselves a little bit at the outset of the season, maybe thought we were a little better than we were at the time. And consequently it didn't help us. So we'll just have to go back to basics again and understand how to get to where we want to be and what it takes to get it and how to do it."
On Nick Kaltmayer filling in for Dalton Risner and making first career start...
"I thought he did very well. There were some times, you know, some plays he would like to have back. But it takes me back, and I said this to our team before the ballgame, last year when we played Texas A&M, and Texas A&M had the defensive end that was the highest draft choice, defensive lineman in the country, All-American, et cetera, and he lined up against our left tackle, Scott Frantz. And Scott was redshirt freshman and a young pup and I'm sure he was starry eyed at the time. And the youngster from A&M never touched our quarterback. So once again it's just all about each individual. And there's no reason why a young pup with less experience or hasn't played well can't rise to the occasion. And Nick did just exactly like Scott did a year ago."
On Alex Delton's decision making and having two quality options at quarterback going forward...
"It's truly significant to have two quality young people like Alex and Skylar. And when I say quality young people, you've seen what they can do on the football field. And you've seen that they're talented young guys. But they're really special individuals as well. And I think that's what makes them the quality players that they are. Certainly benefits them in that respect.
"So it's a very positive thing for us. If they continue to keep growing, you know, which they have done. I was so pleased with Alex. Alex came in to see me earlier. He was concerned about whether or not he was going to have an opportunity to get on the field. He wasn't begging for a spot; he was just saying, hey, I'm ready. And I assured him at that time that he would play a major role in the outcome of this ballgame and in the ballgame itself. And fortunately enough he did.
"So I think you have two guys that can, they can do the things that we want to do in our offense, which is maintain balance between the run and the pass. And both of them can throw the ball fine, and both of them can run the ball well."
On turning the season around...
"I'd have to really to sit down and think about that. Maybe it might have been something, might have been the Texas Tech ballgame and come-from-behind victory as well. Quarterback goes down, and new quarterback comes in, finishes the ballgame, and a come-from-behind victory. When you put a few of those together, you really realize because it's so easy when you've had some disappointments, you have disappointments in life, sometimes it becomes more and more difficult to climb the mountain, so to speak, get back on your feet and do the things that you know how to do right. And our guys did exactly that when times are tough.
"And I think, like anybody else, you know, I would just as soon won all those ball games in the middle of the season that we lost. But by the same token there's some great value in that as well, for life, for the young people in our program. And I think they've experienced it. They recognize it. They realize the value in life and I think it helps add to their value system, so to speak, and makes them better people, I think."
K-State Sophomore Safety Denzel Goolsby
On any second half adjustments on defense to slow down UCLA...
"I think in the first half we were a little sloppy with our play, maybe rusty after not playing for a month. And so during halftime we kind of just tightened up a little bit. Defense came together and we knew that the things that we had to correct, and just came out a little bit more fired up in the second half."
On the forced fumble and recovery in the third quarter...
"I saw their running back, he's a great player. I know he runs hard. And so luckily he was already wrapped up by a few of our guys and that's just hats off to our defense. We have a lot of guys flying around and a lot of guys getting to the football at the same time. And so they made my job easy just coming in there and just trying to strip the ball out and give our offense the ball in the red zone."
K-State Sophomore Quarterback Alex Delton
On being able to step in after missing significant time towards the end of the season...
"I haven't seen the field in quite some time, but I practiced fully in our bowl preparation. And I felt confident with everything we were doing, with our game plan and I took this as if it was a normal week. Due to previous injuries I was unable to play early in the season. But I just trusted our coaches, trusted our teammates, and my number was called. I just did the best of my ability. So it's huge credit to those guys up front. Those guys don't get enough credit. Those guys worked their butts off. And they're great, tough, hard-nosed guys, especially our lead backs. And those guys made my job easy tonight."
On finishing with the long drive down the stretch...
"That's kind of the beauty of our offense. We have the ability to do that, take over kind of the whole quarter really. And Coach talks about it all the time, all our offensive coaches and defensive coaches talk about it that we need to finish. Sometimes at practice we'll even emphasize the end of practice, to finish the practice the right way. And that's just part of the game and it's a huge part of being successful in the game. So we're fortunate we finished tonight and I'm super proud of our guys — offensively, defensively, special teams — that made plays down the wire, and, I mean, it's a great feeling.
On his first touch going for a score...
"Yeah, I think any time your number is called you're anxious and ready to make a play and — from the best of your ability. It was a huge play for us offensively. Like I said, it's a huge (indiscernible). I mean there were some big holes there. I really did the easy part of just running the ball in. But our guys did a heck of a job blocking. That was a great (indiscernible) play they made, and those guys fitted it almost to a T. Like I said, I felt like I made a pretty good run, but those guys fitted that almost to a T."
On getting a win for Jesse Ertz...
"I can't say enough positive things about Jesse. That's my brother. I room with him. I'm with him all the time. He's one of my best friends off the field. I learned so much from him. This guy's just truly a class act and does everything right and is a great leader. He turned in to be like a mentor, but he's more like a best friend. And I go to him with so many of my issues and just anything, just talk to him. He's been there for me and for everybody on our team. It just shows what a true leader he is, and just his passion for people. And I'm sure whatever Jesse does after this he's going to be extremely successful because he just — he's that kind of guy. Everything he does he's going to be the best at it, and he's going to work his butt off. Nothing but love for Jesse; he's a great, great friend for me."
On the ever shifting nature of the quarterback situation during season...
"Yeah, I mean, it's part of the game. Obviously injuries we know every time we put on the cleats that we've got a potential risk of getting injuries. So, I mean, it's part of the game. Probably sounds more crazy than it is. All of us quarterbacks and every position knows that we're one or two snaps away from playing. So it has been a roller coaster year for sure for me personally but I've learned a lot of valuable lessons this season. I think I've learned more about myself than I ever have and I'm fortunate for that. Sometimes you think things are going back but you learn about yourself. I'm blessed to be in this position, and I think all of us as a team we're very blessed to be in this position. And we're going to enjoy this win for the next few weeks before we get back."
On the game serving as a confidence boost going forward...
"Anytime you can lead a team to victory it builds confidence. It's obviously a huge challenge, and we knew it was going to be a challenge. UCLA is a great ball club. They defensively did some really good things that we knew they would, but they just executed at a high level. They're just a great ball club. Anytime you can execute and perform at a high level against a good ball club you're going to feel good about it, and you're going to feel good about the work you put in. And we need to build off of it. Like Coach was saying, last year the Texas Bowl we won and started the season off a little slow. And we just have to build off this in spring workouts, just starting off right in January. So I'm excited for this opportunity. I think we have a great opportunity in front of us. And, like I said, we're just going to enjoy this win."