The touchdown connection wasn’t enough to give Kansas State a victory in the Alamo Bowl, but Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett will remember the play fondly anyway.
So will their teammates, and, likely, their fans.
It was a 29-yard strike from a record-setting quarterback to a record-setting receiver. Waters, a senior passer, dropped back and lofted a pass to the left corner of the end zone. Lockett, a senior route-runner, found his way under the ball for an uncontested touchdown and the final score in 40-35 UCLA win.
That play will be difficult to duplicate next season, with both player pursuing NFL careers.
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“We kind of looked at each other and knew, hey, just do a 10 in and go,” Waters said. “Just get a little variation off it and Tyler did the rest, got wide open.
“Walking off the field together, it was pretty emotional. You put so many hours in that people don’t see. That kind of goes unnoticed, and for that to be the last time was hard to hold back.”
Senior receiver Curry Sexton, another big offensive cog that K-State will miss next season, said the touchdown play wasn’t even in the Wildcats’ playbook.
“The way those two work, I wish people could see the way they work on a daily basis,” Sexton said. “The chemistry they have and the time they put in, just the communication they have with each other – it is just unbelievable.
“K-State would be lucky to ever have a connection like that again. That is a once-in-a-generation kind of deal. They are always on the same page.”
Together, Waters and Lockett combined for nearly every big play the Wildcats made against the Bruins. Lockett grabbed 13 balls for 164 yards and two touchdowns, while Waters threw for 338 yards, also connecting with Sexton 10 times for 104 yards.
It was a fitting end to their K-State careers.
Following the game, K-State coach Bill Snyder said he will miss Lockett, praising the skilled playmaker as a hard worker, an outstanding football player and an even better person.
But he spread the compliments around.
“All of these guys are (high character),” Snyder said. “I could echo all those thoughts with each and every one of these young guys. They’re really special.”
Replacing the trio will be daunting.
Waters finished the year with a school record 3,501 passing yards on top of 484 rushing yards. Lockett leaves K-State as its top career receiver, piling up 1,515 yards as a senior. Throw in Sexton, who exited with 1,059 yards during his final campaign, and K-State is staring at a complete overhaul in the passing game.
Backup quarterback Joe Hubener, third-stringer Jesse Ertz and incoming freshman Alex Delton – all unproven – will compete to follow Waters. Only Hubener (235 yards and a touchdown) has recorded throwing stats in college.
Kody Cook (251 yards), Deante Burton (171 yards), Judah Jones (51 yards) and a host of backup receivers will compete with incoming recruits to follow Lockett and Sexton.
Simply put, K-State will look different next season, especially when it throws the ball.
“We got to have some new leaders,” Sexton said. “We had a large group of senior leaders and I hope they take nothing for granted. There is a lot of turnover from this year to next. There are going to be a lot of positions open, battling for jobs.
“I would just really embrace the competition, embrace the daily grind, if you want to call it that, and take pride in wearing the Kansas State uniform. It really is a special thing.”