Kansas State Wildcats Bowl Recap: Pop-Tarts Bowl Win Over NC State

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While most of the postgame highlights from this year’s Pop-Tarts Bowl surrounded the exploits of the game’s “edible” mascot, the on-field performance from the Kansas State Wildcats was highlight worthy on its own. That’s because K-State pulled off a 28-19 victory over NC State in Orlando across Kansas sports betting to cap off a 9-4 campaign, finishing off the night with an 11-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Avery Johnson to Jayce Brown.  

Johnson got the start after starting quarterback Will Howard entered the NCAA’s transfer portal last month, leaving head coach Chris Klieman to search for a starter in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 28 clash with the Wolfpack.  Johnson performed admirably, throwing for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns while running back DJ Giddens was the star of the night, gashing NC State’s defense for 151 yards and a score in the nine-point win. 

All season long, BetKansas.com has been giving readers insights into K-State’s bowl projections odds, with the Wildcats eventually landing in Orlando and pulling off the program’s second bowl win in three years.  

With that in mind, here’s what Wildcats fans should remember about the season that was and where Klieman and his staff may go this offseason as the 2024 season approaches. 

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Pop-Tarts Bowl Recap

Date/Time/Stadium Matchup Result
Dec. 28, 4:45 p.m. (ESPN), Camping World Stadium, OrlandoNo. 18 N.C. State vs. No. 25 Kansas StateKSU 28, N.C. State 19

Kansas State Thrived in 2023

While the Wildcats fell short of reaching the program’s second straight Big 12 championship game, it’s hard to say 2023 was anything but a rousing success. K-State still managed to go 8-4 in the regular season, with wins over in-state rival Kansas and blowout victories over Baylor, Houston, TCU, Texas Tech and UCF.

Above that, the Wildcats saw increasing returns from Howard, who threw for a career high 2,643 yards and 24 touchdowns. Throw in 1,226 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns from Giddens of Junction City and you have a solid backfield to build around in Manhattan, even after Howard departs this offseason.  

With Giddens slated to return in 2024 and tight end Ben Sinnott being a junior, there’s no reason to expect that K-State will fall back to earth across Kansas betting apps.

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Where K-State May Go This Offseason

At the moment, it looks like Klieman might have to rely more on the portal than traditional recruiting to build K-State’s roster in 2024, as the Wildcats currently have the 12th ranked class out of 16 Big 12 teams, per 247 Sports.  

Still, with Giddens returning in the new year and a host of other K-State offensive and defensive players slated to come back to the Little Apple, there’s no reason for doom and gloom at K-State just yet.  

Based on how the Wildcats performed in Orlando, it seems like the beat will keep on rolling along for Klieman and company, with K-State hitting every note with precision against the Wolfpack in late December to close out the year in tasty fashion.  

Also of interest: Kansas Jayhawks Bowl Game: Jayhawks Cap Off Best Season In Years.


Christopher Boan is a lead writer at BetKansas.com specializing in covering state issues. He covered sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years.

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