No. 21 Navy to match up with Kansas State in Liberty Bowl

Wildcats

Kansas State running back James Gilbert (34) breaks away from Iowa State linebacker Mike Rose (23) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNW/K-State Athletics) – Kansas State’s bowl game is final.

The Wildcats will take on Navy in the 61st Annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

The game is set to take place on Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 2:45 p.m. at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee, shown to a nationwide television audience on ESPN.

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.

The Wildcats are back in postseason play after a one-year hiatus after closing on an 8-4 regular season in the first year of head coach Chris Klieman’s tenure.

“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 will be playing in their 22nd bowl appearance in school history, and 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.

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