UCLA vs. Kansas State: How the Bruins and Wildcats match up for the Cactus Bowl
UCLA (6-6) vs. Kansas State (7-5)
Tuesday, 6 p.m. PST, Chase Field, Phoenix, TV: ESPN. Radio: 570, 1150.
Jordan Lasley vs. the Kansas State secondary. The Wildcats may or may not face UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, whose availability has remained uncertain because of a concussion he sustained last month, but they must contend with his top target. Lasley became the first Bruin to record back-to-back games with 200 receiving yards last month, a streak he will try to extend against Kansas State. He leads the Pac-12 Conference with six 100-yard receiving games and likely would have had more had he not missed four games because of unspecified disciplinary reasons. The Wildcats will counter with cornerbacks Duke Shelley and D.J. Reed, who have combined for 20 pass breakups and six interceptions.
UCLA (465.7 ypg/33.8 ppg): After topping triple digits in rushing yardage four times in a five-game stretch, the Bruins took a few steps backward at the end of the regular season. UCLA managed 80 yards rushing against USC before getting only 69 yards on the ground against California, putting the onus on the passing game to move the ball.
Kansas State (368.3 ypg/32.1 ppg): Redshirt freshman Skylar Thompson, the third quarterback to play for the Wildcats this season, started the final three games, throwing for 515 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions while completing 63.3% of his passes. Thompson also ran for 158 yards and two more touchdowns in those games.
UCLA (488.8 ypg/36.8 ppg): A defense that gave up a school-record 3,392 rushing yards has been trending toward respectability, surrendering an average of 184.5 yards on the ground in its last two games. Linebacker Kenny Young, the last UCLA football player to wear the No. 42 made iconic by Bruins legend Jackie Robinson, will be starting his 42nd game.
Kansas State (432 ypg/25.8 ppg): The Wildcats held seven of their nine Big 12 Conference opponents below their season scoring average entering the game. Linebacker Jayd Kirby leads the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and ranks second with four sacks, a half sack behind defensive tackle Will Geary.
Kansas State ranks seventh nationally in punt returns (14.78 yards per return) and 15th in kickoff returns (24.67 yards). … UCLA kicker JJ Molson has made 16 of 20 field goals, including a 37-yard attempt with four seconds left that gave the Bruins a 30-27 victory over Cal.
Kansas State is making its eighth consecutive bowl appearance. … UCLA has gone 2-1 against Kansas State, including a 40-35 victory in the 2015 Alamo Bowl in which the Bruins held on after building a 31-6 halftime lead.
Kansas State has four players on its roster from California: defensive back Eli Walker and defensive tackle Ray Price are from Long Beach and attended Cerritos College, offensive lineman Bryce Fitzner is from Poway and defensive tackle Tevita Fehoko is from East Palo Alto.… UCLA has no players from Kansas on its roster.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch
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