Wildcats, Wolverines set to meet in the desert
Kansas State followed up last year’s BCS bowl run with a thud,
opening the season with a loss to FCS school North Dakota State at
It didn’t get much better after that, with three more losses
over the next five games, leaving the Wildcats not only out of the
BCS bowl picture but in danger of missing the postseason
Then something clicked.
Kicking its offense into another, high-scoring gear, Kansas
State (7-5) reeled off five wins in its final six games to earn a
spot in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Michigan on Saturday
”They learned a little bit about how to practice, how to
prepare,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. ”It’s something
that they probably took for granted at the outside of the season. I
think they finally said, `Hey, let’s do it the right way.”’
Michigan (7-5) finished with the same record as the Wildcats but
headed in the wrong direction as the season progressed.
The Wolverines opened with five straight victories, including a
win over Notre Dame in their second game.
Michigan stumbled to the finish, though, losing five of its
Other than a 29-6 loss to Michigan State, the Wolverines were in
every game but just couldn’t finish things off.
”No question, this football team is 11 points away from being
11-1,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. ”We haven’t finished games
and executed the way we needed to at the end of the games.”
Here are five things to watch for in the Buffalo Wings Bowl:
MICHIGAN’S QB: The Wolverines were hit with a huge blow when
quarterback Devin Gardner hurt his toe in their regular-season
finale against Ohio State. Gardner, who’s thrown for over 4,000
yards and 32 touchdowns the past two seasons, aggravated the injury
last week and is out for the bowl game, leaving Michigan in the
hands of freshman Shane Morris. He attempted nine passes in three
games this season and played just four games as a high school
senior because of mononucleosis.
K-STATE’S TWO QBs: Instead of trying to replace Heisman Trophy
finalist Collin Klein with one quarterback, Snyder has gone with a
two-headed approach. Junior Jake Waters is the thrower, accounting
for 2,198 yards and 15 touchdowns passing. Sophomore Daniel Sams is
the runner, rushing for 784 yards and 11 TDs. Snyder doesn’t
typically like to use two quarterbacks, but he believes Waters and
Sams together give the Wildcats the best chance to win.
STOPPING MUELLER: With a freshman starting his first game at
quarterback, Michigan will want to keep Kansas State from knocking
Morris around and possibly rattling him early. Doing that will
start with slowing down Wildcats defensive end Ryan Mueller. The
6-foot-2, 245-pound junior was a walk-on in 2010 who developed into
one of the nation’s most disruptive defensive linemen. Mueller
finished the season sixth nationally with 11 sacks and was seventh
with 18.5 tackles for loss.
BOWL WOES: Snyder orchestrated one of college football’s biggest
turnarounds his first stint in the Little Apple and got the
Wildcats back on track when he came out of retirement in 2009. One
thing he hasn’t been able to do, at least recently, is win bowl
games. Kansas State enters the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on a
five-game postseason losing streak that includes a 35-17 loss to
Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl a year ago in the desert. The Wildcats
haven’t won a bowl game since scoring in the final 90 seconds to
beat Arizona State in the 2002 Holiday Bowl.
GO-TO GALLON: Fifth-year senior Jeremy Gallon has become
Michigan’s go-to receiver. After catching 49 passes last season,
Gallon had 80 receptions this year, which is 33 more than anyone
else on the team. He has 1,284 yards receiving and nine touchdowns
and accounted for the Wolverines’ four longest plays from
scrimmage, including an 84-yard catch from Gardner against Ohio