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FIESTA STILL GRAND FOR SYRACUSE, K-STATE

Two years ago, the nation watched as Nebraska routed Florida to win the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl. At the end of next season, the national title again will be decided in Sun Devil Stadium.

But the risks and rewards of being in the Bowl Alliance left the Fiesta Bowl with mostly leftovers this year, two pretty good football teams who have flirted with Top 10 rankings but are not considered among the best teams in the country. No. 10 Kansas State and No. 14 Syracuse meet in a Fiesta Bowl (7 p.m., Ch. 4) that has no significant national implications.

In today's other bowl games, No. 16 Arizona State (8-3) plays Iowa (7-4) in the Sun Bowl (2 p.m., Ch. 4) in El Paso, Texas, and No. 22 Southern Mississippi (8-3) goes against Pittsburgh (6-5) in the Liberty Bowl (3:30 p.m., ESPN) in Memphis, Tenn.

Still, the Fiesta Bowl is huge for a Kansas State team desperately seeking some national recognition and pretty big for a Syracuse team that has seven straight bowl wins but is playing for the first time in an Alliance Bowl.

"We felt like we had this kind of team when we started the season," said Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni, whose team opened impressively by beating Wisconsin, 34-0, only to lose its next three games.

"Some people are saying it's a fluke, that K-state doesn't deserve to be in an Alliance Bowl," Kansas State quarterback Michael Bishop said. "But we're a team on the rise. If we win this game we feel we should be in the Top 10 to open next year."

Both the Wildcats (10-1) and the Orangemen (9-3) are on a roll coming into the game, with Kansas State having won seven straight since suffering its only loss of the season, 56-26, to No. 2 Nebraska. Syracuse has won its last eight games after a 1-3 start.

Kansas State is a 3 1/2 -point favorite in a game that features teams similar in many ways, especially at quarterback. Bishop and Syracuse's Donovan McNabb are good scramblers who have a knack of making plays happen just when everything seems to be falling apart around them.

"Syracuse and Kansas State have more similarities than anyone we play in our conference," K-State coach Bill Snyder said.

Dicken powers Purdue in Alamo

SAN ANTONIO -- Billy Dicken refused to let his college football career end on the sidelines nursing a sore shoulder.

Shaking off a first-quarter injury to his throwing arm, the Purdue senior passed for 325 yards, leading the No. 17 Boilermakers to a 33-20 victory over No. 24 Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl Tuesday night.

"It was one of the gutsiest performances I have seen in 32 years of coaching. He never flinched," Boilermakers coach Joe Tiller said. "We knew as coaches that there was no way he was going to leave the game."

Dicken completed 18 of 34 passes with two touchdowns and three interceptions. His 325 passing yards set a record for the 5-year-old Alamo Bowl, which is sponsored by Builders Square.

It also was the highest-scoring game in Alamo Bowl history.

After a low-scoring first half, the Boilermakers pulled away from the underdog Cowboys in the lively third quarter, extending a 10-6 lead to 30-13 with 3:52 left in the period.

Purdue opened the second half with a touchdown after gaining control of the ball when Adrian Beasley intercepted Tony Lindsay's pass and ran 36 yards to the Oklahoma State 6.

Dicken ran in from the 1, and the Boilermakers led 16-6 with 12:02 left. Shane Ryan's conversion kick missed after the ball was moved back 15 yards because of a personal foul.

Oklahoma State sent backup quarterback Chris Chaloupka into the game on the next drive, and the Cowboys answered with a touchdown of their own. Jamaal Fobbs ran the ball in from 21 yards, capping an 80-yard drive and closing the Cowboys to 16-13.

As Oklahoma State was kicking the extra point, a man clad only in skimpy blue underwear dashed onto the field and was tackled by two police officers in the opposite end zone. The Alamodome crowd of 55,552 cheered as he was led away in handcuffs.

Vinny Sutherland's 16-yard touchdown run gave Purdue a 23-13 lead with 7:34 left in the third period.

Purdue also scored on its next possession, on a 69-yard pass from Dicken to Chris Daniels, an Alamo Bowl record for longest reception. The touchdown put Purdue ahead 30-13 with 3:52 left in the quarter.

The Boilermakers upped their lead to 33-13 early in the fourth quarter with a 37-yard field goal by Ryan.

The Cowboys got the final touchdown with only 55 seconds left when McQuarters scored on a 17-yard pass from Lindsay.

Tar Heels' back questionable

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- No. 7 North Carolina tailback Jonathan Linton strained a ligament in his right knee Tuesday, making the 1,000-yard rusher questionable for Thursday's Gator Bowl.

Linton hurt the knee midway through the Tar Heels' final contact practice for the game against Virginia Tech. The senior, who rushed for 1,004 yards, collided with a teammate and slipped to the turf.

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