SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Even with a 31-6 halftime lead, UCLA coach Jim Mora knew the Bruins had a lot of work to do to finish off Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl.
“We’re playing the 11th-ranked team in the country, and it’s not going to be easy,” Mora said. “You know they’re going to fight back. If they don’t fight back, they don’t deserve to be No. 11.”
The No. 14 Bruins held on, beating the Wildcats 40-35 on Friday night.
Mora and Kansas State coach Bill Snyder had an awkward exchange on the field after the game. Apparently upset that Kansas State took a timeout and hit Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley as he kneeled to down the ball on the final play, Mora quickly turned away from the 75-year-old Snyder after barely shaking hands, then went back and got into an animated chat.
“I will defend the safety of my players … forever,” Mora tweeted.
The message was retweeted by many Bruins players.
Facing the large deficit at the half, Snyder bristled at the thought that TV broadcasters might say the same thing about his Wildcats that they did about Florida State in the Rose Bowl.
“We had a TV announcer indicate in another ballgame that a football team had quit, and that’s the last thing in the world anybody wants to hear on national TV, I assure you,” Snyder said. “I reminded our youngsters of it, that we weren’t about to let somebody say that about us. And they didn’t.”
Kansas State (9-4) scored 22 of the first 25 points in the second half, cutting it to 34-28 on quarterback Jake Waters’ 1-yard run with 4:54 left.
Paul Perkins countered for UCLA (10-3) with a 67-yard run with 2:20 to go.
“That hole was huge. Anybody could have run through it,” said Perkins, who ran for 194 yards on 20 carries. “And on the kick, I just wanted to secure the ball and get us out of here with the win.”
The Wildcats weren’t finished.
Waters threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett with 1:21 left, but Perkins recovered the onside kick for UCLA and the Bruins ran out the clock.
“Our players didn’t give in,” Snyder said. “Fought back. It wasn’t enough.”
It’s been a week of big comebacks at bowl games. Michigan State trailed Baylor by 20 in the fourth quarter at the Cotton Bowl and won 42-41. Earlier Friday, Houston scored 29 points in the fourth quarter to beat Pittsburgh 35-34 in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Waters was 31 of 48 for 338 yards, but was sacked seven times — twice by Butkus Award winner Eric Kendricks — and threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.
Lockett had 13 catches for 164 yards for Kansas State.
Hundley ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries and passed for 136 yards. Mora has said Hundley is forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
UCLA raced to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, with Hundley scoring on runs of 10 and 28 yards. The Bruins outgained Kansas State 218-4 and had a 9-1 edge in first downs in the quarter.
In the second quarter, Perkins had a 32-yard touchdown run and Hundley threw a 7-yard scoring pass to Devin Lucien. The Bruins sacked Waters five times in the half.
“By my count we left 28 points on the field in the first half,” Snyder said. “That’s our fault.”
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.