SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The oddsmakers should know better than to set
an 18-point line for the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl.
K-State QB Ell Roberson passed for 1,580 yards and ran for another 1,032 last season.
Yes, favored Kansas State won, but certainly not the way they were expected to.
Ell Roberson rallied the sixth-ranked Wildcats with three fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 10-yard pass to Derrick Evans with 1:15 to play for a 34-27 victory over scrappy Arizona State on Friday night.
Roberson also scored on sneaks of 2 yards and 1 yard in the
fourth quarter to add to the Holiday Bowl's history of wild
finishes. He had four TDs overall, having also scored on a 32-yard
run just before halftime.
"I think he'll tell you he's had better games,'' coach Bill Snyder said. "But when it was on the line, he was very special.''
Kansas State (11-2), the highest-ranked team not in a Bowl Championship Series game, trailed 20-14 entering the fourth quarter and seemed on the verge of what would have been a shocking upset.
By then, though, Roberson was well on his way to leading a
16-play, 65-yard drive that took 7 minutes, 13 seconds. His 2-yard
plunge pulled the Wildcats into a 20-20 tie with 12:36 left in the
fourth quarter, but they blew the extra point because of a low
ASU needed just 1:46 to go ahead 27-20 on Andrew Walter's 10-yard misdirection screen pass to Mike Williams, when the quarterback rolled right and threw left. Walter was 6-of-8 for 78 yards on the drive.
No Lead Is Safe
The halftime leader has lost each of the past six Holiday Bowls.
But Roberson came back and led an 80-yard drive that he finished with 1-yard sneak for a 27-27 tie with 6:41 left.
All-American cornerback Terence Newman, used as a wide receiver, set up the winning score with a 34-yard punt return. Once a 10-yard holding penalty against K-State was marched off, the Wildcats started the winning drive on their 41.
Roberson, the game's offensive MVP, hit Evans on a slant pattern for K-State's first lead of the game.
"I had to get rid of it faster than I wanted to,'' Roberson said. "I just laid it up there and he made a great catch.''
From 4:29 left in the third quarter until the winning TD pass, Roberson was 8-for-12 passing for 127 yards, and carried nine times for 44 yards.
Arizona State had one last shot at the upset, but Walter's desperation pass on fourth-and-15 from his 49 was knocked down inside the 5.
Ever since the bowl matchups were set, the Sun Devils were constantly reminded that the point spread was the biggest of all 28 bowls.
"I was pretty irritated because coming out here today, we're
the biggest underdog of any bowl game being played,'' Walter said.
"It was fuel for the fire.''
Kansas State won its sixth straight game. It was the fifth time in six seasons the Wildcats finished with 11 wins. Arizona State (8-6) lost for the fourth time in five games.
"I think we came out and laid an egg in the first half,'' Newman said. "We got down, but we played through it. That's what the No. 6 team in the nation is supposed to do in the second half.''
Roberson completed 11 of 28 passes for 215 yards and one TD, and rushed 18 times for 63 yards and three scores.
Walter was 28-of-57 for 293 yards and two touchdowns, with one
interception. The Wildcats had only 17 yards rushing on 26 carries.
Kansas State's Darren Sproles rushed 21 times for 118 yards and
Arizona State All-American defensive end Terrell Suggs harassed Roberson for most of the first half and had two sacks, pushing his NCAA record to 24.
"We put ourselves in a position to win and we just didn't do it,'' Suggs said. "It hurts, but we'll be all right.''
Suggs is a junior and is undecided whether he'll turn pro. Fans chanted "One more year! One more year!'' when he collected the trophy for defensive MVP.
After a scoreless first quarter, Arizona State took off but K-State kept it close with big plays.
Walter threw a 6-yard TD pass to Justin Taplin and Mike Barth
kicked a 26-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
The Wildcats came right back on Sproles' 41-yard scoring run,
highlighted by his spin move to evade two tacklers at the line of
scrimmage. The play was set up by Newman's 36-yard catch.
Two possessions later, on third-and-1 from the K-State 9,
Arizona State hurried to the line of scrimmage in an attempt to
surprise the Wildcats, coming out with two tight ends and a
full-house backfield. Tailback Hakim Hill took the handoff and ran
untouched around right end for the score and a 17-7 lead.
Sproles' fumble set up Mike Barth's 39-yard field goal for a
20-7 lead, but again K-State responded quickly.
On second-and-10 from the 32, Roberson was flushed from the pocket by Suggs, but ended up scoring, evading four defenders along the way, to pull the Wildcats to 20-14. Roberson set up the score with a 41-yard pass to Taco Wallace.