Phoenix — 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.
Heart of Dallas Bowl
Utah 30, West Virginia 14: Zach Moss ran for 150 yards with a career-long 58-yard run for a touchdown, Tyler Huntley scored twice on 2-yard keepers and Utah got its fifth consecutive bowl victory.
On a drizzly and chilly day in Cotton Bowl Stadium, the Utes (7-6) led for good after Moss took a third-and-1 handoff, quickly burst into the open field and went all the way to the end zone to cap their opening drive.
Utah improved to 11-1 in bowl games under Kyle Whittingham, the former defensive coordinator whose debut as head coach was a Fiesta Bowl win at the end of the 2004 season. He co-coached that game with Urban Meyer, who had taken the Florida job three weeks earlier but returned to be part of Utah’s postseason win over Pittsburgh after Whittingham had been promoted to head coach. With the win, Whittingham tied Alabama’s Nick Saban for most bowl wins by an active coach.
“It was very important for us to come out of the gates with a big play early on and set the tone,” said Moss, who like Huntley still has two seasons left with the Utes.
West Virginia (7-6) finished the season with its third straight loss. The Mountaineers had only 153 total yards without junior quarterback Will Grier, who broke a finger Nov. 18, and 1,000-yard rusher Justin Crawford, a senior who bypassed the bowl game in advance of the NFL draft.
FSU vows no letdown
Florida State’s season started with national championship aspirations but will instead end in relative obscurity against Southern Mississippi in the Independence Bowl today.
The Seminoles freely acknowledge it’s been a tough few months. They’re also adamant the disappointment won’t carry over to the field when they face the Golden Eagles.
“We are here to win,” Florida State defensive end Brian Burns said. “We’ve got to dig down deep and get that win.”
Florida State (6-6, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) will be playing without some of its top defensive players, including second-team AP All-American safety Derwin James, who declared for the NFL draft and opted not to play in the bowl game.
The Seminoles will try to slow a Southern Miss (8-4, 6-2 Conference USA) offense that’s led by running back Ito Smith. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound senior has run for nearly 4,500 yards in his career, including 1,323 this season.
Ole Miss DL opts for draft
Mississippi defensive lineman Breeland Speaks has decided to skip his final year of college eligibility and enter the NFL draft.
Speaks released a statement through the school confirming the decision on Tuesday. The 6-foot-3, 285-pound junior finished second on the team with 67 tackles, including eight for a loss and seven sacks. He led the team with eight quarterback hurries.
Wednesday’s bowl games
Matchup: Virginia (6-6) vs. Navy (6-5)
Kickoff: 1:30 p.m., Annapolis, Md.
CAMPING WORLD BOWL
Matchup: Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (9-3)
Kickoff: 5:15 p.m., Orlando, Fla.
Matchup: Stanford (9-4) vs. TCU (10-3)
Kickoff: 9 p.m., San Antonio