The 45-20 Alabama win over Kansas State was convincing on a few levels. After falling behind by 10 early, the Crimson Tide scored touchdowns on its next five possessions to blow the game open.
Kansas State, meanwhile, managed just a field goal and a touchdown in the final three quarters as Alabama ran away with the game.
Here’s the transcript of Wildcat coach Chris Klieman’s postgame comments courtesy of the Sugar Bowl.
“Yeah, let’s start where it needs to start. Thank you, K‑State fan base. Thank you, K‑State nation, for coming out in droves. What we saw at the pep rally last night, with probably 10,000, 12,000 people supporting these guys, is why we all came to K‑State.
And the fans out there today were phenomenal. We got off to a good start. I wish we could have given them a better show after that first quarter. But my hat is off to the best fan base in college football for coming out and supporting these great young men.
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We talked in the locker room. Obviously disappointed in how this ended in our performance, but don’t be defined by a moment. Be remembered for your body of work. And this body of work will be remembered in Kansas State history forever, because these guys were Big 12 champs and deserved it and earned the right to be Big 12 champs and represent our conference in the Sugar Bowl.
Did not play our best football today. Give credit to Alabama, but appreciate the guys staying in the fight for four quarters.”
Coach, did it feel like once the miss on that fourth down at the goal line that just everything swung out of favor and every gamble you took didn’t work?
Kliemann: “Yes, I would have done it again. Deuce [Vaughn] would have said let’s go again. And the fact that we wanted to go ahead at halftime. It was under a minute left or a minute left or whatever the heck it was. Make a really good call and just don’t execute it.
And then, shoot, they’re at the 1-yard line and we’re going to use time-outs and try to get the football back. I mean, we’re in attack mode from the start.
And give those guys credit. We didn’t make a tackle when we needed to make a tackle. And can’t let them go 99 yards to make it what it was at the end of the first half.
A 21‑10 game that ‑‑ I’m never going to second‑guess myself ‑‑ and you guys know that from being around us. And we’ve gone for it on fourth down all season long ‑‑ when we had a chance to go up 17‑14.”
Coach, along that same line, at what point did you make the decision to try the on‑side kick to start the second half?
Kliemann: “When we were in the locker room talking. We’ve worked these kicks every week all year long. Guys will tell you, every week, we have it in. Every week we have it in. And we didn’t execute it the way that it needed to be executed. We were trying to put it between the two guys.
That’s a hard kick. Ty [Zentner] didn’t hit it probably the way he wanted to. But we also knew we had to take some chances because of the last two drives that they had on offense, where we struggled to slow them down.
And whether or not it’s an 80-yard drive or a 45-yard drive, once again, we came here to win, man. We didn’t come here to try to keep this thing close, whatever. We came here to win. And that’s what we thought was the best opportunity.”
Coach Klieman, you talked about the importance of looking at the whole body of work with this team. What made this group so special character‑wise, and then obviously on the field as well?
Kliemann: “Yes, just the power of belief and the power of player ownership. Those guys took ownership in the locker room, ownership in the football team.
It’s pretty special as a head football coach when you know that your phone is not ringing at night and you’re not going to have kids doing things that they shouldn’t be doing. And I’ve never been around a football team that does knucklehead things off the field that’s successful on the field.
And these guys were phenomenal kids off the field. And it translated to great players on the field, because they are disciplined, they are committed. They’re tough. They’re selfless. That’s what I’m going to remember about this group.”
Coach, on Alabama’s first two drives, you held them to a combined 26 yards. Deuce [Vaughn] has the 88‑yard run. What, if any, adjustments did you see Alabama made that led to five straight touchdowns?
Kliemann: “They were able to hit the explosive play on us. That was kind of the fear that we had. They’re pretty talented. Their quarterback (Bryce Young) is a pretty good player. They have good wide receivers. And they did, I thought, a really nice job.
We had them in third and 10, and maybe get off the field again. And they throw it to a really good running back. Makes the kid miss. We kind of lose the cup, and he takes it for a huge gain to make it 10‑7 really fast. I thought if we had gotten off the field, but we didn’t.
That’s the whole thing. We talked all year long about not giving up explosive plays; and today, they were able to get some on us.”
Coach, you were able to get Adrian [Martinez] in there for a couple of snaps in the first half. Were you able to kind of execute that two‑quarterback strategy the way you hoped?
Kliemann: “I was excited that Adrian got a chance to play in a bowl game. He came here and transferred here to win a championship and have a chance to hopefully play in a bowl game, and helped us win the Big 12 championship.
And when he got hurt, that was the goal, was to try to get him healthy enough to play some.
It became Will Howard’s football team. Everybody knows that. But Will and Adrian are so close, I thought it was important for CK (Collin Klein) and I tried to find a way to get Adrian a few snaps.
We were able to do that. I saw a big smile on his face. Saw a big smile on Will Howard’s face that Adrian got a chance to play in a bowl game.”
Coach, Brian Branch, you saw him all over the field where the secondary is concerned. But what impressed you about the ground he was able to cover against your offense?
Kliemann: “Yeah, they’ve got really good defensive players. They tackle exceptionally well. They got off of blocks, and they played well.”
Coach, if you don’t mind me asking just about the quarterback (Bryce Young) on the other side. It’s kind of a career day for him. What were the challenges like to try to defend against him?
Kliemann: “He won the Heisman for a reason, for starters. We were mixing in three-man rush, four-man rush, five-man rush. We were able to get some hits on him. We were able to fluster him a little bit. But when you’ve played as many snaps as he has, it’s hard to get him flustered for very long. Credit to him.
And I didn’t get a chance to see him. I think I ran into one of their coaches. Just thanked him, told him thank you for playing, because that’s what college football is about. I was happy Bryce played. I thought that was really good for college football and really good for kids to see.”