Ty Zimmerman described the win over Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings bowl with one simple word: "Special."
Indeed it was. K-State snapped a five game winless streak in bowl games with a 31-14 win over the Wolverines, Saturday night.
"We've been to four straight now. When you lose bowl games, it kind of leaves you with an empty feeling for the next six or seven months until you start playing again," Zimmerman said. "So that was a huge motivational factor for us going into this week."
All anyone wanted was to get a win for K-State at the bowl. It didn't even matter what the bowl games; Toilet, Candy, Sugar or Fiesta - winning a bowl is a big deal. And when the storyline heading into the week was about K-State's lack of wins, that gnaws at the team. And it showed.
"It was extremely significant to them. It allowed the seniors to do what is the obvious, and that is finish off their career in a very, very positive way, which will be very meaningful to them I think for the rest of their lives," head coach Bill Snyder said. "The University of Michigan is the winningest football program in the history of college football, right? These young guys were victorious over a very fine football team."
"I've been to the Pinstripe Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and now the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. All those bowl games previous, we weren't successful," Ryan Mueller said. "The locker room was total disappoint. Obviously with a win today, the locker room was totally hyped. It was definitely a better feeling."
There were claims that Michigan didn't care about the game. They cared. But they were banged up, quarterback Devin Gardner didn't play and their offensive line was a patchwork crew for the back half of the season. But from the opening kickoff, this was K-State's game and they were going to finish it off.
Jake Waters to Tyler Lockett was a theme for the game, to the tune of 3 touchdowns and over 270 yards in the air. Winning for the seniors meant a lot to this pair of juniors.
"He's such a special player. [Lockett] can get open for any route because he works at it," Waters said. "Me and him have a great connection. I'm just trying to get him the ball. He did a great job tonight, as he has all season."
This K-State team loses some seniors but this was a junior led team and could be even better next season. Returning will be Waters, Lockett, quarterback Daniel Sams, center BJ Finney and Mueller, among others. As good as they finished the season to get the bowl win, this could propel them back to BCS heights in 2014. They will certainly be contenders or even favorites in the Big 12 race.
We got into what makes K-State such a popular bowl team during the post season. It boils down to the fanbase. Wildcat Nation helps the 'Cats in the postseason, in the stands and onto the field.
Bowls have to sell tickets and they need fans to do so. And K-State fans will travel. They filled up Sun Devil Stadium as well as any fanbase and as the game continued to roll along, they grew louder and louder until the players lifted the trophy.
The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is not a BCS bowl. It is not a high end bowl. But it's a good bowl game, run by a quality organization and it shows. Efficient, well staffed and the football wasn't bad either. Fans were involved and it made the game as good as any of the other more popular bowls in December.
Sun Devil Stadium is excellent; old enough to have character and memories but updated enough to every amenity that modern fans crave.
Other than being spread out so much, the Phoenix area is a fantastic place for a bowl game. No matter the teams in the game, the people living here know what's going on.
2014 sets up for another good season for K-State (maybe great) and if the atmosphere in Tempe, Arizona was any indication, the bowls will keep calling for the Wildcats to come to their town.