TEMPE, Ariz. — Kansas State coach Bill Snyder saw what was coming and tried to avoid it, racing 20 yards down the sideline and out onto the field.
Spry as he might be, the 74-year-old coach was no match for players young enough to be his grandchildren, turning just in time to take the full icy brunt of defensive end Ryan Mueller dumping a water bucket over his head.
“I did [see it], but I’m too old to get out of the way,” Snyder said.
He’s certainly not too old to win bowl games.
The architect of one of college football’s biggest turnarounds during his first stint at Kansas State, Snyder and his Wildcats won their first bowl game in 11 years by rolling over Michigan 31-14 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Saturday night.
Jake Waters threw for 271 yards and connected with record-breaking receiver Tyler Lockett on three scores, helping Kansas State (8-5) end a five-game bowl losing streak.
“Nobody on the team won a bowl game,” Lockett said. “It has been 11 years, (like) 4,018 games. We wanted to send the seniors out with a great win in a Kansas State uniform.”
The Wildcats surged at the end of the season and were unstoppable early against Michigan (7-6), scoring on their first three possessions behind Lockett and Waters.
Lockett set a school record with 10 catches for 116 yards and tied the Kansas State bowl record with his three TDs. Waters was efficient in leading Kansas State’s offense, completing 21 of 27 passes and running for 42 yards.
The Wildcats’ defense dominated most of the night, holding Michigan to 261 total yards — 82 of that on a final scoring drive in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach.
“To win the way we did it put a nice little cap to our season,” Waters said. “The journey we have been through, to end like this is special.”
Freshman quarterback Shane Morris was steady in place of injured starter Devin Gardner, leading Michigan on two early scoring drives. The Wolverines settled for field goals on both and did little the rest of the way.
Morris threw for 196 yards on 24-of-38 passing with an interception. Michigan’s run game didn’t give him much support, particularly early, and finished with 65 yards on 15 carries.
Michigan’s defense also had trouble stopping Kansas State most of the night, giving up 420 total yards in the Wolverines’ second straight bowl loss.
“We didn’t play well enough in a lot of areas,” coach Brady Hoke said.
Kansas State finished the season strong after some early difficulties — starting with a home loss to FCS opponent North Dakota State. The Wildcats won five of their final six games while scoring at least 31 points in each.
Michigan limped to the finish after a 5-0 start, losing five of its final seven games and Gardner along the way. The redshirt junior injured his toe in the regular-season finale against Ohio State and didn’t recover in time for the bowl game, leaving the Wolverines in the hands of Morris.
The freshman hasn’t played much over the past year, limited to four games as a high school senior due to mononucleosis and to nine pass attempts as Gardner’s backup this season.
Morris didn’t seem to mind being thrust into the spotlight as the first Michigan quarterback to make his first career start in a bowl game. He was helped by a conservative game plan filled with short throws early and started unleashing his big left arm by Michigan’s second drive, completing 15 of 19 passes for 121 yards in the first half.
“You would have thought he was doing it five years now,” Michigan offensive lineman Taylor Lewan said.
The problem for the Wolverines was they couldn’t finish off drives, settling for field goals of 22 and 26 yards by Matt Wile.
That was good for Wile, who made one field goal all season, but not for Michigan because its defense couldn’t stop the Wildcats — particularly the Waters-to-Lockett combination.
Kansas State set the tone on its opening drive, grinding out 75 yards in 15 plays and 7:51 off the clock. Lockett capped it with a 6-yard touchdown catch after the Wildcats’ line gave Waters just enough time to get the throw off against Michigan’s blitz.
Lockett set up the next drive with a 40-yard kickoff return and capped it with a 29-yard touchdown catch, set up by Waters’ pump fake that gave him separation behind Michigan’s defense.
Kansas State raced down the field again on its next drive, setting up Lockett’s third touchdown, an 8-yarder from Waters that put the Wildcats up 21-6 at halftime.
“We wanted to get a fast start and we did,” Lockett said. “We got on top of them early and that helped us out.”
The Wildcats bogged down in the second half, but so did the Wolverines.
Michigan had 23 total yards in the third quarter and failed to capitalize on the game’s first turnover — a fumble by Daniel Sams — by going three-and-out.
Kansas State’s Ian Anderson hit a 22-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, John Hubert scored on a 1-yard run after Morris’ interception and the Wildcats celebrated Snyder’s seventh bowl victory by chasing him down the sideline for the water-bucket dump.
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