Coming off an 8-4 regular season under first-year head coach Chris Klieman, K-State Nation is heading to Memphis as Kansas State officials announced Sunday that the Wildcats have accepted an invitation to play Navy in the 61st Annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Tuesday, December 31.
It will be Kansas State’s second appearance in the Liberty Bowl, the first being after the 2015 season. K-State and Navy will square off for the first time in school history inside Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium with kickoff slated for 2:45 p.m., shown to a nationwide television audience on ESPN.
“We are excited to accept an invitation to play in the Liberty Bowl,” said Klieman. “I am really proud of our team, especially our seniors, and our staff for continuing to work hard day after day and collectively getting better throughout the season. The story of the 2019 Wildcats still has one game left, and we look forward to spending the holidays in Memphis and preparing for a great Navy team in what will be an exciting Liberty Bowl.”
The Wildcats (8-4) will be playing in their 22nd bowl game in school history and are back in postseason play after a one-year hiatus. The Wildcats have won two-straight bowls and three of their last five. They will be in search of winning three-straight bowl games for the first time in school history.
“I want to congratulate Coach Klieman and our football team and staff on a great regular season and getting our program back to a bowl game,” said Athletics Director Gene Taylor. “We look forward to showcasing our football program and Kansas State University in the Liberty Bowl, and I know our fans are excited to show their outstanding support in Memphis while our football student-athletes, coaches and staff are provided a great experience.”
K-State, which was predicted to finish ninth in the Big 12, ended the year in a tie for third place in the league standings, the biggest jump from a preseason poll since 2014 (TCU). The Wildcats also claimed the only victory among the four College Football Playoff teams this year when they upended No. 4 Oklahoma.
Kansas State raced out to a 3-0 start, highlighted by a 31-24 victory at Mississippi State, the Wildcats’ first win inside an SEC venue in 12 tries. Following a pair of losses to open up Big 12 play, K-State came back with three more wins – a 24-17 triumph over TCU, a 48-41 upset of then-No. 5 and now College Football Playoff participant Oklahoma, and a convincing 38-10 win at Kansas.
The victory over the Sooners was the Wildcats’ first over a top-five team in 13 seasons and the first over OU in Manhattan since 1996. K-State’s win in Lawrence was its 11th-straight Sunflower Showdown victory to tie the Wildcats’ own record for the longest winning streak in by either team in the series.
A pair of losses to Texas and West Virginia by a combined seven points – including one on a field goal on the final play of the game in Austin – preceded a pair of wins to close out the regular season as K-State won at Texas Tech, 30-27, before a 27-17 triumph over Iowa State on Senior Night, the Wildcats’ seventh-straight home win over the Cyclones.
Navy, K-State’s Liberty Bowl opponent, holds a 9-2 record prior to the annual Army-Navy Game this Saturday in Philadelphia. The Midshipmen, who were ranked No. 24 in the final College Football Playoff Top 25, finished with a 7-1 mark in the American Athletic Conference to tie for first in the West Division. It will be the first meeting between K-State and Navy, the sixth for the Wildcats against a service academy and the first since hosting Army in 1987. Kansas State is 3-2 all-time against service academies, going 3-0 against Air Force and 0-2 against Army.
Tickets in the official K-State sections are available now online at www.kstatesports.com/bowlgame and via phone at 1-800-221-Cats until 6 p.m. Sunday and beginning again at 8:30 a.m. Monday. All Ahearn Fund members and fans who pre-ordered tickets have been contacted earlier this week with information regarding their ticket requests. Student tickets will also be made available later this week in-person at the Bramlage Coliseum ticket office.
Bench seating is still available at $85 per ticket, and parking passes are available for just $20 each. Fans are also invited to purchase tickets to the bowl’s pre-game buffet and party next to the stadium for just $40.