TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Jake Waters threw for 271 yards and connected with Tyler Lockett on three touchdowns, leading Kansas State to its first bowl victory in 11 years, 31-14 over Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Saturday night.
Kansas State (8-5) scored on its first three possessions, all touchdown passes from Waters to Lockett, and its defense dominated Michigan to end a five-game bowl losing streak.
Lockett set a school record with 10 catches for 116 yards and Waters completed 21 of 27 passes, sending the Wildcats to their first bowl victory since the 2002 Holiday Bowl.
Freshman Shane Morris was steady in place of injured starter Devin Gardner, leading Michigan (7-6) on two early scoring drives. The Wolverines settled for field goals on both and did little the rest of the way, finishing with 261 total yards.
Morris threw for 196 yards on 24-of-38 passing with an interception before leading Michigan on a late scoring drive with the game out of reach.
Michigan’s defense also had trouble stopping Kansas State most of the night, giving up 420 total yards
Kansas State finished the season strong after some early difficulties – starting with a home loss to FCS North Dakota State – winning five of its 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 senior 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.
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 since its defense couldn’t seem to 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 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.
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 Bill Snyder’s seventh bowl victory by chasing the 74-year-old coach down the sideline for a water-bucket dump.
— Associated Press —