NEW ORLEANS — Bryce Young passed for 321 yards and five touchdowns in a game that other top NFL prospects might have skipped, and No. 5 Alabama responded to an early two-score deficit with 35 straight points to defeat 11th-ranked Kansas State 45-20 in the Sugar Bowl on Saturday.
While a number of pro-bound college stars sat out bowl games that were not part of the College Football Playoff, the Crimson Tide and Wildcats had their best prospects on the field and making a number of memorable plays — from Young’s pivotal passes, to Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn‘s 88-yard touchdown run, to interceptions by Alabama’s Jordan Battle and Brian Branch.
Young was substituted out during a series in the fourth quarter, raising his right hand to Alabama fans who loudly rose to their feet as the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner trotted to the sideline.
“It started way back when we started practice. There’s a lot of guys on this team that have given a lot to this program, and I think the way the team performed out there together as a group, was with something to prove,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We had a little bit of taste in our mouth that if we had a dominant performance that we could show people that we deserved to do a little better than what we did in terms of the playoff picture.”
Jermaine Burton caught three passes for 87 yards and a touchdown for Alabama (11-2). Tide running back Jahmyr Gibbs had 142 yards from scrimmage — 76 rushing and 66 receiving. Young’s other touchdowns went to Isaiah Bond (6 yards), Cameron Latu (1 yard), Ja’Corey Brooks (32 yards) and Kobe Prentice (47 yards). Jase McClelland added a 17-yard scoring run.
Kansas State (10-4) entered its first Sugar Bowl on a four-game winning streak and was riding high after knocking off No. 3 TCU — a CFP team — in the Big 12 title game.
While Battle’s leaping interception of Will Howard ended K-State’s opening drive on the Alabama 21, the Wildcats scored the Sugar Bowl’s first 10 points, surging in front on Ty Zentner‘s 41-yard field goal and Vaughn’s long run.
Alabama was on the brink of punting a third time when Young, on third-and-10, stepped up in a collapsing pocket and flicked a short pass to Gibbs, who was cutting across the middle and turned up field for a 60-yard gain. Young stepped up similarly to avoid pressure on his touchdown pass to Bond shortly after.
“For us, the standard, that is something that we live by,” Young said. “It’s not just something that we can do just one time. It continues for the future of the program.”
Young threw over the top to Burton for 47 yards to set up his 1-yard scoring pass Latu that put Alabama in front for good.
“He won the Heisman for a reason, for starters,” Kansas State coach Chris Klieman said.
Late in the first half, Kansas State drove to the Alabama 2 — converting two fourth downs along the way — only to fail on fourth-and-goal when Howard threw out of the reach of tight end Ben Sinnott, who was breaking open after Will Anderson fell while trying to cover him.
That missed chance proved costly.
Young needed just 51 seconds to produce another touchdown, completing passes of 12, 28 and 22 yards before hitting Burton from 12 yards out to make it 21-10 at halftime.
“I’m proud that we came to the Sugar Bowl, I’m proud that we won the Sugar Bowl, but I’m most proud that there was a team out there that cared,” Saban said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.