Bryce Young goes out with a bang as Alabama cruises past Kansas State in Sugar Bowl

If this was Bryce Young’s final college game, he went out with a bang.

After a slow start, Young and Alabama exploded for 35 unanswered points en route to a decisive 45-20 victory over Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl.

K-State, the Big 12 champions, jumped out to a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter thanks in part to an 88-yard touchdown run by Deuce Vaughn. If it looked like the Crimson Tide was on the ropes, that feeling didn’t last long.

Alabama responded with back-to-back touchdown drives and then stopped Kansas State on the goal line just before halftime. Kansas State marched 73 yards on an 18-play drive that took more than 10 minutes off the clock before stalling at the 2-yard line.

Alabama then scored again in a flash, going 98 yards in under a minute to take a 21-10 lead into halftime.

The second half was more of the same. Young continued to torch the Wildcats defense, connecting on touchdown passes of 32, 17 and 47 yards in the third quarter alone.

The 32-yarder to Ja’Corey Brooks was vintage Young — a perfectly placed ball in the corner of the end zone.

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When the third quarter came to a close, Alabama’s lead had grown from 21-10 at halftime to 42-13. It was an avalanche that Kansas State just could not stop.

By the time the dust settled, Young had completed 15-of-21 throws for 321 yards and five touchdowns in a commanding victory for the Crimson Tide. The defense, meanwhile, kept Kansas State out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.

Vaughn finished with 133 yards rushing on the day. Aside from the 88-yard touchdown, he could muster only 45 yards on his other 21 carries.

Kansas State QB Will Howard struggled mightily, completing 18-of-35 throws for 210 yards with two costly interceptions. He also missed an open Ben Sinnott on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line with just over a minute remaining in the first half.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) reacts after throwing a touchdown pass during the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game against Kansas State Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) reacts after throwing a touchdown pass during the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game against Kansas State Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Had Howard connected with Sinnott, K-State would have taken a 17-14 lead just before half. Instead, K-State’s opportunity to retake the lead slipped away. Alabama took advantage of that misstep — and then some. The Wildcats would not advance that deep into Alabama territory until the final minutes of regulation.

By that point, the game was well in hand and Young had taken a curtain call to signal the end of his incredible college career.

With the win, Alabama finished the year with an 11-2 record. After losing in the College Football Playoff national championship to Georgia last fall, it’s not what was expected of Nick Saban’s program that has perennial title aspirations.

But last-second losses to Tennessee and LSU during the regular season sealed Alabama’s CFP fate. No two-loss team has ever reached the four-team playoff and Alabama ended up at No. 5 in the CFP selection committee’s final rankings.

Despite missing out on the playoff, Young decided to suit up one final time rather than sitting out to preserve his health ahead of the NFL draft. And he capped off his career with another tremendous performance.