Preparations are underway and practices have resumed, which means K-State is going bowling for the fifth-consecutive year.
Athletic director John Currie announced Sunday that the Wildcats (9-3) have accepted an invitation to the 2015 Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas against Pac-12 foe No. 15 UCLA (9-3).
The game will be the 18th bowl game in school history and the 16th under head coach Bill Snyder, who is 7-8 all-time at the helm of the Wildcats in such games. It’s also the sixth bowl game for K-State in the state of Texas, but only the second time at the Alamodome. The other came 16 years ago when K-State dropped a 37-34 heartbreaker to Purdue in the 1998 installment of the game.
K-State will look to capture back-to-back bowl wins for just the second time in school history after beating Michigan in last year’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Arizona. Prior to that win, K-State had not bagged a bowl trophy since 2002 when it took home the Holiday Bowl crown with a 34-27 victory over Arizona State.
The lengthy drought included five losses by an average of 13.4 points. Arguably the two most disappointing games of the bunch came during the 2003 and 2012 seasons, both in the Fiesta Bowl. In 2003, K-State fell behind by as much as 21 points to Ohio State and then went on a frantic comeback before ultimately falling 35-28.
Two years ago, K-State learned of Oregon’s speed the hard way. Current Kansas City Chiefs running back De’Anthony Thomas took the opening kickoff 94 yards to give the Ducks a quick 8-0 lead and one they would not relinquish.
The 11-year winless stretch also included a controversial ending to 2010’s 36-34 loss to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl. With 1:13 left in the ballgame, former K-State wide receiver Adrian Hilburn hauled in a 30-yard touchdown to pull the Wildcats within two points. However, Hilburn was tagged with a 15-yard excessive celebration penalty for saluting the crowd, dubbed the “Bronx salute”, forcing K-State to attempt a two-point try from the 17-yard line, which failed.
K-State had better luck against Syracuse in the 1997 Fiesta Bowl. Led by K-State great Michael Bishop and his 317 yards and four touchdowns, the Wildcats cruised to a comfortable 17-point win over Donovan McNabb and the Orangemen.
That win was a part of a 4-3 K-State bowl run in the 1990’s after being labeled “Futility U” by Sports Illustrated prior to the hire of Snyder in 1989. K-State captured two Holiday Bowl victories during that time and a 52-17-blowout victory over Wyoming in the 1993 Copper Bowl.
K-State lost to Syracuse a second time in the 2001 Insight Bowl before rebounding against the Sun Devils a year later.
The program’s only bowl appearance prior to Snyder came in 1982 with the Independence Bowl. K-State fell to Wisconsin 14-3 in that game with Jim Dickey on the sidelines as the head coach and his son, Darrell, on the field as the Wildcats’ starting quarterback.
The payout for the 1982 Independence Bowl was $600,000. Meanwhile, the payout for the 2012 Fiesta Bowl was $17,000,000 per team.
The economics have changed, but K-State’s presence in postseason college football has been consistent from the program’s first bowl appearance to this year’s Valero Alamo Bowl.
This year’s senior class had a chance to make history by winning two Big 12 championships during their time at K-State. That dream fell to Baylor last weekend, but redemption can come with back-to-back bowl wins against UCLA on Jan. 2 in San Antonio.