Amid an Alamodome replete with fans clad in Kansas State purple, it was the blue and gold of UCLA that won the 2015 Valero Alamo Bowl Friday night, Jan. 2.
The near sellout crowd did not wait long to see the high-octane offense from the Pac-12 Conference Bruins. With a 10-yard quarterback keeper by former Heisman Trophy hopeful Brett Hundley, the team took an early touchdown lead in the first three minutes of the game. The redshirt junior quarterback would end the day with an impressive 110 rushing yards, locking in the team’s victory at 40-35.
After a stalled drive by Kansas State, UCLA went on to a 17-0 lead following a field goal and yet another Hundley scramble for 28 yards.
“It was a heck of a football game,” said Jim Mora, UCLA head coach. “You get out to a lead, and you get in an environment where you’re playing the 11th-ranked team in the country, you know that they’re going to fight back.”
Yet the start of the second quarter gave the Wildcat faithful a glimmer of hope as they finally got on the board with a 47-yard field goal by Matthew McCrane. The Brownwood, Texas, native would split the uprights again with a 29-yard field goal to keep the score respectable.
Then the rout was seemingly on as a pair of UCLA touchdowns by running back Paul Perkins and wide receiver Devin Lucien made the score 31-6 at the half.
But the 11th-ranked Wildcats would not disappear as they chipped away at the lead with a three-yard touchdown pass by Jake Waters to senior wide receiver Tyler Lockett. The pair would hook up again for a two-point conversion, making it 31-14.
“We understood at halftime we still had a chance. We’re a team who never gives up, we’re a team who will always keep fighting until it says 0:00 on the clock, and that’s exactly what we did,” explained Lockett.
Then it would be UCLA who struggled to sustain drives.
Kansas State tailback DeMarcus Robinson capitalized on a three-minute drive, punching in a touchdown of his own and adding to seven total carries for the day.
There was still a pulse in the Bruins offense, however faint, as Ka’imi Fairbairn booted a 44-yard field goal to make it 34-21.
Then Waters did it with his legs instead of his arm with a quarterback sneak into the end zone, making the Wildcat deficit a mere six points.
“I’m never going to count out my guys,” Waters said. “We go into halftime and we’ve just got to correct the mistakes. We made a few plays here and there and we were right back in it. That’s all you can ask for.”
Then the sophomore running back Paul Perkins struck again with a 67-yard rush to pay dirt, finally electrifying the nervous Bruin crowd, making it 40-28.
“The offensive line, like they’ve been doing all year, has been doing a great job. (You) couldn’t ask for a better group of guys up there. They keep improving every game, and man, anybody could have run through that hole,” said Perkins.
But there was no rest for 14th-ranked UCLA as Lockett hauled in a 29-yard strike by Waters on his way to 338 total passing yards. As the final seconds ticked away, it was Kansas State falling short 40-35 in another classic at the Alamodome.
“In the second half we played well defensively until we broke down, and that was not that (Perkins) couldn’t run well, but we just broke down and didn’t fit. We left a gap and they put it in the end zone and that ended the ballgame, so to speak,” concluded Bill Snyder, Kansas State head coach.
But even after the final whistle, the Alamo City still felt the ripples of the 17th-oldest bowl game in the modern college football era.
Now 22 years old, more than 750,000 out-of-town visitors have attended the game since its inception providing a direct economic impact of $411 million.
“We’re excited to showcase San Antonio. We have plenty of civic pride in our town, and there’s no better way to show it off than to have an event that’s seen by seven million people on ESPN,” said Rick Hill, vice-president of marketing for the Valero Alamo Bowl.
The Valero Alamo Bowl recently awarded $412,500 to 55 graduating seniors selected from 39 different San Antonio high schools. This more than doubled last year’s total and pushed the bowl’s local scholarship giving in the last 15 years to $1.64 million.
“The destination sells itself. Our track record of success speaks for itself each year as these teams become ambassadors as they sing the praises of San Antonio,” Hill continued.
For title sponsor, Valero Energy, its involvement works seamlessly with the many charitable endeavors it continues year-round.
More than 187,000 pounds of food have been collected for the San Antonio Food Bank through its “Fill the Bowl” efforts, for example.
“We love to have a huge visitor impact. (Bowl week) has become one of the more lively weeks in city. We’ve had a couple of Texas teams in the game in recent years, so it’s great to have two engaged fan bases,” Hill explained.
With the Fortune 500 Company’s sponsorship renewed through 2019, the city is poised to continue the streak of sell-outs the last three games and in six of the last eight matchups. As another year comes to a close, the bar is sure be set very high on and off the football field.
*Featured/top image: UCLA takes the field during the 2015 Valero Alamo Bowl held on Jan. 2, 2015, at the Alamodome. Photo by Kristian Jaime.