K-State Toasts NC State in Pop-Tarts Bowl, 28-19

  • By Kyle Nash
  • December 28, 2023
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Orlando, Fl – In its first game ever with the current branding (complete with edible mascot) the Pop-Tarts Bowl at Camping World Stadium, featured the Big 12’s Kansas State Wildcats and the Atlantic Coast Conference’s North Carolina State Wolfpack.

The main storyline heading into the contest revolved around Kansas State’s quarterback Will Howard opting out of the game. Head coach Chris Klieman had stated he and the team had the ultimate confidence in backup quarterback, Avery Johnson.

It seemed their confidence was well placed early on when Johnson found a wide-open DJ Giddens for a 37-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive.

Relying on Giddens seemed to be the game plan for the Wildcats against the Wolfpack who were missing their alpha tackler, Payton Wilson who didn’t play. K-State came out running with Giddens for the first three plays of the game to set up the play-action pass that landed him in the end zone. Giddens ran for 152 yards on 28 carries and one touchdown on top of his receiving score.

NC State managed to get into the redzone early in the second quarter but was stopped on a 4th and 1 at the Kansas State 10-yard line. On the following drive, it seemed the Wildcats were about to give the ball back until punter Jack Blumer scampered 30 yards on the fake punt on 4th and 5 from their 29-yard line. This set up a four-yard touchdown run for Giddens to extend the lead to 14-0.

 

The Wolfpack finally got on the scoreboard with 3:22 left in the first half when NC State’s quarterback Brennan Armstrong showed why he’s the team’s leading rusher by taking a 31-yard run for a touchdown. Johnson responded by leading the Wolfpack to the endzone himself on a 19-yard run with less than 0.55 seconds on the clock.

Armstrong completed 14 of his 28 passes for 168 yards and 0 touchdowns with the game-ending interception as well as 121 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown. Their top receiver Kevin Concepcion turned in seven catches for 72 receiving yards. He committed the game’s only turnover.

With the Wildcats leading 21-7 with less than a minute before halftime, NC State drove to the eight-yard line where they settled for a Braydon Narveson 26-yard field goal. The Wolfpack closed the gap to 21-10 heading to the locker room to receive the ball in the next quarter.

NC State opened the second half with a 49-yard boot from Narveson to make it 21-13. Toward the end of the third quarter, the Wolfpack ran a fake punt of their own on a direct snap to tight end Trent Penix for a touchdown. Penix’s 60-yard run made it a two-point game but they failed to tie the game after an unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt.

K-State was up 21-19 at the start of the fourth quarter, where both teams traded punts leading into the final 3:00 of the contest. The Wildcats were on a four-drive slump scoring no points when they made it to the Wolfpack red zone.

Johnson found Jayce Brown for an 11-yard touchdown to cap off a drive that featured two scores that were called back on penalties. That secured the win for Kansas State.

Johnson finished the game connecting 14 times on 31 attempts with two touchdowns and in addition to 71 yards rushing on seven carries and a rushing touchdown. He was voted Player of the Game.

Kyle Nash

Kyle is from Orlando, Florida

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