PHOENIX (AP) Alex Delton ran for 158 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, leading Kansas State to a 35-17 Cactus Bowl victory over UCLA on Tuesday night in what could be the final game of coach Bill Snyder’s career.
Delton replaced Skylar Thompson late in the first quarter and scored on runs of 68 yards, 3 yards and 1 yard. Alex Barnes added 117 yards and a touchdown for the Wildcats, who rushed for 345 yards.
Kansas State (8-5) struggled in the first half against UCLA’s potent offense, but shut down the Bruins in the second to give Snyder his 210th – and possibly final – win with the Wildcats.
UCLA (6-7) played without top NFL prospect Josh Rosen, who’s recovering from a concussion, and built a 10-point halftime lead without its star quarterback.
The Bruins’ offensive success didn’t carry over into the second half and their defense had a hard time containing Delton, saddling interim coach Jedd Fisch with a loss in his last game before Chip Kelly takes over the program.
Snyder turned around one of the nation’s worst programs after taking over in the Little Apple in 1989. He returned from a three-year retirement in 2008 and led the Wildcats to eight straight bowl appearances.
Snyder has not decided whether he will return for a 27th season or retire again to spend time with his family.
The 78-year-old coach made a quarterback change in the first quarter of the Cactus Bowl, replacing Thompson after an interception. Delton had an immediate impact with his legs, bursting through a hole in the middle, making a tackler miss and racing 68 yards for a touchdown.
Snyder took a gamble in the third quarter, opting to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Delton came through again, bulling his way through a massive pile – with some help from his teammates – for a hard-earned score.
Kansas State recovered Bolu Olorunfunmi’s fumble at the Bruins 24-yard line on the next play from scrimmage, and Delton hit Dominique Heath for an 8-yard touchdown to give the Wildcats the lead.
UCLA turned it over on downs – after a successful fake punt – and Kansas State turned its fourth-down try into a touchdown, with Alex Barnes putting the Wildcats up 28-17 with a 41-yard run.
Kansas State gave UCLA no hope of a comeback with a drive that lasted more than eight minutes and ended with Delton’s final TD run.
Rosen, expected to leave for the NFL after his junior year, was in uniform at Chase Field and warmed up before the game, but Devon Modster trotted out to the huddle for UCLA.
The Bruins still had their big-play game going even without Rosen, building a 17-7 halftime lead on two long TD passes by Modster.
UCLA’s offensive roll ended with halftime. The Bruins had 100 total yards and three first downs in the second half.
If this was the final game of Snyder’s career, the Wildcats sent him out on a high note with a dominant second-half performance.
UCLA’s defense, a sore spot all season, had no answer for Delton, and its offense could have used Rosen in the second half.
Kansas State: The Wildcats should be in good shape on offense next season whether Snyder returns or not. Kansas State has no seniors on its two-deep roster on offense, though there are five on defense.
UCLA: Kelly will likely have to replace Rosen when he takes over, but will have plenty of firepower returning. He’s also one of the nation’s top recruiters, so the Bruins should be well-stocked with talent.