The 2022 AllState Sugar Bowl was going to be a telling of two potential storylines after the game. The first would be the final proper final sendoff for two of college football’s best players in Alabama’s Bryce Young and Will Anderson Jr. Another storyline of the Sugar Bowl was that the Kansas State Wildcats were the more prepared and energized team.
That looked to be the case when the Wildcats jumped to a 10-0 lead. The Wildcats’ offense looked more aggressive to attack with running back Deuce Vaughn and made key completions to tight end and wide-open receivers on busted coverages. After the first touchdown by the Crimson Tide, the team started to compose themselves on both sides of the ball. Alabama saw a dominating performance from Bryce Young in what is likely going to be the final game of his collegiate career. The defense had great moments after the initial couple of drives. Finally, Alabama’s in the Sugar Bowl broke the curse of losing in non-CFP bowl games in New Orleans with a 45-20 win over Kansas State.
Alabama Overcomes Slow Start
Bryce Young Delivers on Final Performance
The beginning of the first quarter was not pleasant for the former Heisman Trophy winner. Young was three of six for 35 yards in the first two drives of the game as he was also sacked by Daniel Green. After the next two drives, Young was 12-of-15 for 286 yards and five touchdowns. Young calmed down significantly and read the defensive coverages as a huge miss to an open Jermaine Burton.
Throughout the game, Young was finding key coverage mismatches from the defending Wildcats’ defense. He showed why he was the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner and why he is a strong candidate to be the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Young finished the game by completing 15-of-21 of his passes for 321 yards, five touchdowns, and a QBR of 98.7. He had a highly efficient performance spreading the ball throughout the field to several different receivers.
Young had a special moment with his team as he had one last play in the fourth quarter before Jalen Milroe took over for the rest of the game. He was seen hugging his teammates and coaches in what looked like a farewell presentation to the future NFL quarterback. Young received the 2022 Sugar Bowl Offensive MVP award for his stellar play. He tied Alabama’s bowl record of touchdown throws with Mac Jones in the 2021 National Championship game.
Alabama’s Defense Finds Big Performance in Unlikely Performance
The Alabama defense knew they were going to have a tough performance against a Kansas State offense that likes to win with speed and matchups. They experienced problems through significant blown coverages and wide-open Wildcats. Eventually, the defense started to shift around players with players like Anderson and edge rusher Dallas Turner double-teamed. An unlikely player for Alabama became a key disruptor and defensive player of the game. That unlikely player was safety/slot cornerback Brian Branch. Throughout the game, Branch was utilized as an extra blitzer in several schemes where he came in as a slot cornerback and provided that quick extra pressure to Wildcats quarterback Will Howard.
Branch accounted for 12 total tackles, 11 solo tackles, a team-high four tackles for loss, a sack, an interception. After allowing 172 in the first quarter from Kansas State, Alabama allowed 229 total yards through the final three quarters. Wildcats rushed for 107 yards in the first quarter, including the 88-yard touchdown, but Alabama held the speedy back to 26 yards on the ground in the last three quarters. Alabama was more focused after the initial first quarter as they were more efficient in picking up coverage schemes and making proper pursuit angles against the Wildcats. Alabama’s defense didn’t start off well, but they finished strong.
Alabama Finishes 2022 in a Positive Setting
The biggest criticism that Alabama had to endure after missing out on the final CFP vote was its lack of determination in non-CFP bowl games. In the 2014 Sugar Bowl, Alabama lost to Oklahoma 45-31, led by Trevor Knight. Then the famous 2009 Sugar Bowl where the Tide lost to Utah 31-17. With this win over Kansas State, Alabama gets a big rebound from this Sugar Bowl curse. They also get a jump start toward a potential revenge season for the 2023 college football season. Both Alabama and Kansas State will need to reload their teams, but they have the coaching staff and young players for contention in the CFP