As expected the Liberty Bowl showdown between Kansas State and Navy was heavy on the running attack, unfortunately, it was the Midshipmen who did most of the damage in a 20-17 win over the Wildcats in Memphis, Tennessee.
It was a disappointing end to a season in Manhattan that far exceeded expectations in Chris Klieman’s first year on the job. In the first quarter, Navy put the only points on the board, with a field goal to cap off an 11-play, 55-yard drive to go up 3-0.
Early in the second quarter, the Wildcats struck when Phillip Brooks returned a punt 66 yards to the house for a 7-3 Kansas State lead, in what unfortunately would be their only lead of the game. On the very next drive, the Midshipmen went 75 yards on eight plays, with the score coming, yes, you better believe it, through the air, when quarterback Malcolm Perry hooked up with Keoni-Kordell Makekau for a 27-yard score to put Navy back on top 10-7.
The Wildcats did tie it up at 10 on their next drive when Blake Lynch drilled a 39-yard field goal at the 2:27 mark of the second quarter.
However, the second half was a different story. Navy came out of the half with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off with a Chance Warren 20-yard touchdown run. The teams then exchanged punts and we entered the fourth quarter with Navy leading Kansas State 17-10 in a quarter where Kansas State had -1 total yards and to the point had been outgained 278-73.
After another K-State punt, Navy was pinned back at its own 11-yard line, but QB Malcolm Perry had a 59-yard run on the second play of the drive to put Navy at the Wildcats’ 29-yard line. With the way K-State’s offense was looking, a field goal might do it.
However, Navy’s kicker Bijan Nichols missed a 38-yarder and the Wildcats had some life. KSU used that momentum to its advantage as they stormed down the field in six plays to score their first offensive touchdown of the game on a Skylar Thompson one-yard run. The drive included a beautiful 42-yard strike from Thompson to Wykeen Gill to set up the TD. The game had turned and it was tied at 17 with five minutes left.
But Navy was not phased by the momentum shift. The Midshipmen’s drive started at their own 25-yard line and 3rd and 3 and 3rd at 1 on their side of the field before K-State got a key 3rd and 3 stop at the K-State 46-yard line. But Navy went for it and broke out its bag of trick plays.
With the entire stadium expecting run, Navy pitched it to CJ Williams who then ran right and found a wide open Chance Warren down the right side for 41 yards to put Navy inside the Wildcats’ 10-yard line with :20 seconds left.
NAVY PULLS OUT THE TRICK PLAY TO SET UP THE GO AHEAD FG! 😱 pic.twitter.com/tl8M1VhgWp— ESPN (@espn) December 31, 2019
Bijan Nichols avenged his earlier miss to put through the game-winning field goal from 23 yards out as Kansas State fell to Navy 20-17 in the Liberty Bowl.
The Wildcats’ were outgained 421-170 and were crushed on the ground 323 to 46. They also struggled on third downs finishing just 1 for 8. However the first season under Chris Klieman should be not understated by this loss as the Wildcats capped off an impressive 8-5 season with plenty to build on heading into 2020.
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