Meet UCLA’s Cactus Bowl opponent: Kansas State Wildcats
Skylar Thompson stared down a receiver to his left but saw double coverage. He brought the ball back to his right, rolling out to his right as the seconds ticked down to zero against Iowa State. Run it in from the 1, he thought. Then he saw Isaiah Zuber come free at the back of the end zone.
“Skylar Thompson,” ESPN color analyst Ahmad Brooks said as the Wildcats poured onto the field to celebrate a thrilling 20-19 victory over Iowa State in their regular-season finale on Nov. 25, “welcome to stardom.”
Thompson is Kansas State’s late-season magician. The redshirt freshman started the season as the third-string quarterback, but has helped the Wildcats (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) to four wins in their past five games heading into the bowl season.
Starter Jesse Ertz injured his knee in the fifth game of the season, which pressed sophomore Alex Delton into action. Delton lost his first two starts, games against TCU and Oklahoma, and sustained injuries in each of the next two games. That’s when Thompson got his first taste of glory.
He helped the Wildcats stave off a comeback attempt from Kansas, scoring the game-sealing touchdown with a 4-yard rush with 1:21 to go. He threw the game-winning touchdown pass the next week to take down Texas Tech in overtime. He tossed three touchdowns in Kansas State’s upset over No. 10 Oklahoma State. Then he led an 87-yard touchdown pass to win the game against Iowa State.
After they rose to No. 18 in the national rankings with a 2-0 start, the Wildcats lost four of their next five, but used the November surge to grab a fourth-place finish in the Big 12.
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