It took Bill Snyder and Kansas State more than a decade to finally get a bowl game win again, happening at the expense of the very disappointing Michigan, who seem to have taken another step backwards this season, losing 31-14 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Michigan really had no answer to the sweep/option play Kansas State kept sticking to. The Wildcats got an excellent performance from Jake Waters, throwing for 217 yards on 21-of-27 (3 touchdown passes) while rushing for 42 more. Senior running back John Hubert added 80 yards on the ground, scoring a touchdown, while the defense limited Michigan to a total of 261 yards, as Shane Morris didn’t do a much better job than his predecessor as the starting quarterback. Only one true freshman actually finished with a winning record this season as a starting quarterback (Penn State), so it wasn’t that surprising that Morris looked a bit out of his depth against Kansas State.
There couldn’t have been a more different momentum clash than the one in Tempe. Michigan stated the season 5-0, but since managed to win only twice, finishing the season at 7-6. They did put on a great game against Ohio State, but couldn’t stop their biggest rivals from reaching the conference championship game. Even when Ohio State did lose and fell out of the national championship game picture, Michigan State took their place in the Rose Bowl, so it’s a bad season from about every angle for the Wolverines.
Kansas State? Quite the opposite. They started the season losing to the FCS powerhouse of North Dakota State, but they won five of their final six games scoring 31 points at least in each of them. What really seemed to work for Kansas State against Michigan was the combination between Waters and wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Lockett caught 10 passes for 116 yards, three of them coming in the end zone, as the Michigan offense didn’t really make too many mistakes (one interception from the surprisingly confident Morris), but just couldn’t stop Kansas State anytime Waters threw the ball in Lockett’s direction.
This was the first bowl game win for any Kansas State player, as some of them somehow blew their chance of playing in a national title game last season and later were crushed by Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. This might not have been perfect penance for last year’s mistakes, but it’s nice to finish a season like this after all of the negative momentum they were carrying back from last year.
Maybe the highlight of the game was Bill Snyder trying to avoid the incoming Gatorade bath, but at 74 it’s quite hard for the head coach to out run teenagers and 20-year old athletes who are out there to get him wet. He didn’t seem too bothered about being part of the ritual, especially after so many years of Kansas State doing well in the regular season and having their season end with disappointment – usually the BCS screwing them over and then losing in a bowl game they deserved more than actually playing in. This year, they played where they were supposed to be, and had the happy ending.