I hear it all the time, “Who has the best conference in college football?” SEC? Big 10? ACC? What about the Pac-12? Very rarely are you going to hear the words “Big 12” coming out of someone’s mouth in that conversation. Whether you do it or not, there are plenty of folks out there who love to bash the Big 12 conference (cough, Paul Finebaum, cough). Congratulations Kansas State, you not only won the Cactus Bowl, you got the Big 12 their first win of the bowl season. The Wildcats defeated the UCLA Bruins 35-17 to wrap up the season at 8-5. While this is a nice springboard heading into 2018, there is one large question that looms over the program. Was this Bill Snyder’s last game coaching the Kansas State Wildcats? For the sake of college football and especially the Kansas State faithful, I sure hope not. Now whether you like it or not (If you don’t like it, have a few alcoholic beverages and try reading it again), here is the good, the bad and the ugly from Kansas State in the Cactus Bowl.
Alex Delton Saves the Day
It was certainly a tale of two halves for the Wildcats on Tuesday night. As badly as the first half went, the second half took a U-turn in the right direction as Bill Snyder (AKA the Purple Wizard) lead the Wildcats to his 210th victory as the Kansas State head ball coach. The tide really started to turn when QB Alex Delton replaced a struggling Skylar Thompson. In fact, the first time Alex Delton touched the ball he took it 68 yards to the house for a touchdown. Before Delton took over, Skylar Thompson led the offense to three 3 & outs before the change was made. But when Delton came in, he never looked back as he had a monster day on the ground rushing for 158 yards and 3 touchdowns. Kansas State scored 28 unanswered points in the second half and the defense did its part shutting out the UCLA offense after giving up 2 costly big plays. Also, Alex Delton was named offensive MVP for the Cactus Bowl, in case you were wondering.
First Half Defense (Big Plays)
Overall, Kansas State did a great job containing the UCLA offense (even though Josh Rosen didn’t play). What hurt the most is something that Kansas State hasn’t given up too often this season which is the big play. In the second quarter the Wildcats gave up a 52-yard touchdown pass on a WR screen and on the following drive the defense gave up a 70-yard touchdown pass due to busted coverage. Those two plays were the only touchdowns UCLA scored all game, so if those didn’t happen, the Wildcats would have probably dominated the game like we all expected. Still, holding an opponent to 17 points is very good especially when everyone and their mama want to bash Big 12 for not playing defense.
QB Skylar Thompson
I don’t really like bashing a player, but there is no way to sugar coat it. Skylar Thompson had a rough game. Thompson led four drives in the first half and three of them were 3 & outs, while the fourth was an interception. It was not exactly a great way to start a game, but there is something that will be interesting moving forward. We all (Including myself), penciled in Skylar Thompson leading the charge for the 2018 season, after wrapping up the 2017 regular season on a high note. There is no doubt that QB Alex Delton had his fair share of struggles this season, but after this performance, the quarterback battle for Kansas State in 2018 will be very interesting and everyone should be keeping an eye on this heading into the spring.