By: Garrett Franks
NEW ORLEANS, La. – The Tide claimed the sweet taste of victory in a 45-20 Sugar Bowl victory over the Kansas State Wildcats.
Defensive issues plagued the Tide throughout the first half. Safety Jordan Battle picked off Quarterback Will Howard in the wildcats first possession followed by a Ty Zentner field goal. It started in 3:26 mark when Kansas State Running Back Deuce Vaughn sprung through the line for an 88-yard touchdown run.
“That’s all blocking, just the duo scheme, and they split open in the middle,” said Vaughn. “It was great blocking, not only by the O-line but downfield by the receivers to get the safety.”
The Crimson Tide quickly found themselves down 10-0 in the first quarter.
“Being down 10-0, I think all the leaders did a really good job on defense, Byron Young did a good job getting his guys going, I did a good job getting my guys going, Henry To’oTo’o did a good job getting his guys; Jordan Battle,” said Will Anderson.
Bryce Young took control after a three-and-out drive to start the game, he showed why he’s a top NFL Draft choice. Led by his calm demeanor, Young was 10/15 with 211 yards, and 3 touchdowns in the first half.
After a long Kansas State drive, the Wildcats were stood up on the goal-line by the Alabama defense. The Tide took advantage of the turnover-on-downs, as with just a minute left in the half, Young led his team down the field to score, putting the Tide up 21-10 heading into halftime.
“they had three time-outs. We had to make a first down. We made a first down and got up to the 20-yard line,” Said Saban. We get that kind of field position with a minute to go in the half, we’re going to go two-minute.”
The second half started with a bang, as Kansas State tried a surprise onside kick. Alabama recovered it which put them in good field position in the second half. It only took two plays for the Tide to get into the endzone as Young hit Ja’Corey Brooks in the corner of the endzone for six.
Kansas State Head Coach Chris Klieman explains the decision to go for the onside to open the second half.
“We’ve worked these kicks every week all year long, guys will tell you, every week, we have it in,” said Klieman. “We didn’t execute it the way that it needed to be executed, we were trying to put it between the two guys.”
Kansas State’s day would only worsen as Will Howard would throw an interception right into the hands of Defensive Back Brian Branch.
“Brian Branch has played well for us all season long, that interception was big for us,” said Nick Saban. “He’s been a very consistent performer for us all season.”
It would only take one play for the Tide to find the back of the endzone as Jase McClellan dragged a Kansas State defender with him.
Young and company were not done adding points onto the board. After a eight play, 54 yard drive that ended in a 28-yard field goal for the Wildcats, Young responded quickly. As Young connected with true-freshman Kobe Prentice for a 49-yard bomb. Prentice didn’t just stroll into the endzone untouched, but had to out muscle some Wildcat defenders on his way to pay-dirt. It extended the Tide’s lead to 45-13 as time expired in the third quarter.
Kicker Will Reichard also went out on a high note as he drilled a 49-yard attempt with 11 minutes left in the ball game.
Outside of a ten play 71-yard drive that ended in a one-yard rushing touchdown for the Wildcats, the game was over by the fourth.
Young finished the game 15/21 for 321 yards, five touchdowns. Kansas State’s Vaughn finished the game with 22 carries, 133 yards, and one touchdown.
Alabama finishes the 2022 season 11-2 and Sugar Bowl Champions. Next up will be NFL Draft decisions. Many key players will have to make decisions on their future. Some such as Bryce Young, Will Anderson, and Jordan Battle are rather easy calls. Others have some tough choices to make.
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