TEMPE, Ariz. -- After enduring a decade of bowl game futility, Kansas State wanted redemption as it returned to the place the postseason struggles began to wrap up the 2003 season. Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium, the streak finally met its end.
Led by Tyler Lockett touchdown catches, K-State jumped in front of Michigan early before cruising to a 31-14 in the 25th annual Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl for the Wildcats' first bowl championship in 11 years.
"(Winning a bowl game) is extremely significant to them," K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "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."
Lockett caught touchdown passes to end each of K-State first three drives of the game. He finished the night with 116 yards receiving and was named the game's Most Valuable Player on offense.
"One thing that Coach Snyder always used to say is we had to start out strong," Lockett said.
The Wildcats did just that.
K-State quarterback Jake Waters was 9-of-11 passing in the first half and the only time the Wildcats didn't score before the break was when time expired.
"You want to start off fast," Waters said. "We've had a history of not getting off to the fast start that we want. When you play Michigan, or any team in a bowl game, it's going to be hard."
"Once we got going on that first drive, the coaches had a great game plan for us."
Lockett's touchdowns came from 6, 29 and 8 yards out, tying a K-State record for touchdown catches in a bowl game.
Waters said he and Lockett had great chemistry on the field.
"I just have that confidence in him," Waters said. "He's such a special player. He can get open for any route because he works at it. I'm just trying to get him the ball. He did a great job tonight, as he has all season."
While the Wildcat offense continued to find success, K-State's defense played with its signature bend-not-break style, allowing a pair of Michigan field goals early before settling down and playing some of its best football of the season.
"We played fundamental football," senior linebacker Tre Walker said. "Sometimes when you go to a bowl game, fundamentals go out the window. We went back to the basics. We knew they had a freshman quarterback and knew we could make some plays if we pressured him."
Michigan quarterback Shane Morris played reasonably well in his first career start. He finished the game 24-of-38 passing for 196 yards while throwing one interception. He was forced into duty against K-State after Devin Gardner suffered a severe case of turf toe in the Wolverines' regular season finale against Ohio State.
K-State safety Ty Zimmerman said preparation led to his unit's solid performance.
"I felt we were very focused," Zimmerman said. "Defensively I thought we had our best week of practice that we had all year."
Zimmerman had five tackles in his final game as a Wildcat.
Michigan finished the game with just 65 yards rushing. Dante Barnett led K-State with eight tackles and a late interception.
The Wolverines were unable to shift momentum in their favor after falling behind. Despite only trailing by 15 for most of the second half, Michigan never put a drive together that could have brought it within one possession.
"We didn't play well enough today in a lot of areas," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "Third down conversions hurt us and we weren't good enough in the red zone."
K-State running back John Hubert ended his college career by rushing for 80 yards on 16 carries. He topped 1,000 rushing yards for the season and solidified the victory with a late touchdown to give the Wildcats a 31-6 lead.
"I've been long overdue (to reach 1,000 yards)," Hubert said. "Two years in a row I was short by a couple years. This year, I wanted to actually accomplish it. It happened today and I'm thankful."
Waters finished the game 21-of-27 passing for 271 yards and three scores without committing a turnover.
Daniel Sams had 23 yards rushing on four carries in the game, but a potential touchdown pass escaped off Lockett's fingertips.
"Tyler apologized in the huddle after that," Sams said. "At the end of the day, we got the win, and that's all that matters."
K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller took the liberty of giving Snyder a Gatorade bath in the final minutes.
"I think Coach Snyder is upset about it," Mueller said. "I just wanted to share my happiness with him. I have to be careful with what I say because I probably have to run when I get back to Manhattan."
K-State finished the 2013 campaign at 8-5, completing the largest single-season turnaround in school history.
"They took a very individualized approach to this," Snyder said. "When I say 'individualized,' the meaning of that is that each one of them possessed those values of preparation and wanting to improve themselves and wanting to be a part of a victory, having success."
"I mean, they got into it. I guess that would be the easiest way to say it."
Another way to say it is by shouting "Champions," which was audible throughout the K-State locker room after the game.