Kansas State University

Alamo Bowl matchups: When K-State has the ball

K-State wide receiver Curry Sexton needs 45 receiving yards Friday to become the team’s second 1,000-yard receiver this season.
K-State wide receiver Curry Sexton needs 45 receiving yards Friday to become the team’s second 1,000-yard receiver this season. The Wichita Eagle


Line: The Wildcats have been hit-and-miss opening up holes in the running game, but they have been steady in pass protection, giving Jake Waters enough time to throw for 3,163 yards. Senior center B.J. Finney leads the way. He was named co-Big 12 offensive lineman of the year. Cody Whitehair has also shined at left tackle.

Backfield: K-State has attempted more runs (444) than passes (366), but make no mistake, the Wildcats are a passing team. Defenses have forced K-State to abandon its running game at times, holding it to a single yard against West Virginia and 34 yards against TCU. Charles Jones and DeMarcus Robinson have not been nearly as effective as former RB John Hubert. Neither has rushed for more than 75 yards in a game. There is hope Jones could have a nice game against UCLA, though. He played part of the season with a sprained knee, but is now healthy.

Receivers: Few players have eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in a season while playing for Bill Snyder, but this year K-State may have two. Senior Tyler Lockett has 93 catches for 1,351 yards and nine touchdowns, becoming the school’s career receiving leader. Senior Curry Sexton has 69 catches for 955 yards and five touchdowns. Together, they are one of the nation’s top receiving duos. There aren’t many pass-catching options behind them, but tight end Zach Trujillo had a nice game last time out against Baylor.


Line: The Bruins are strong up front, led by senior Owamagbe Odighizuwa and sophomore Kenny Clark, both second-team All-Pac 12. Odighizuwa leads the team with 9 1/2 tackles for loss and Clark is fourth with 57 tackles. The problem has been consistency at the point of attack — in the Bruins’ last eight games, they’ve given up more than 200 rushing yards five times. The other three games? UCLA gave up 56 rushing yards in a win over California, 80 in a win over Pac-12 South champion Arizona and 62 in a win over USC.

Linebackers: The strength of UCLA’s defense is a pair of undersized, athletic linebackers in Butkus Award winner Eric Kendricks (6-foot, 230) and sophomore Myles Jack (6-1, 232). The Bruins could very well use Jack as a sort of roving spy on QB Jake Waters, rushing when he can and trying to contain Waters’ when he decides to run. But that could lead to major trouble when K-State goes to some of its two-running back sets with Charles Jones and Glenn Gronkowski. Those switches could make UCLA vulnerable to zone-read options and the pop pass to Gronkowski.

Defensive backs: A talented group that finished second in the Pac-12 in passing defense at 243.3 yards has its work cut out for it against K-State stars Locket and Sexton. UCLA is working on a string of solid performances, and hasn’t given up more than 300 passing yards since Cal threw for 310 yards on Oct. 18. Sophomore CB Ishmael Adams is an electrifying player. The All-Pac-12 pick led UCLA with four interceptions last season and has two this year, including a 95-yard return for a touchdown against Arizona State.

Edge: K-State