What a wild game, won by Syracuse, 36-34. Great entertainment and one of the best games of the bowl season, but an ugly finish that was, in the end, decided by officials. Nobody likes to see that.
How the game was won: Kansas State's Adrian Hilburn scored a touchdown on a 30-yard pass from Carson Coffman with 1:13 to play that brought the Wildcats within two. Hilburn, however, was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when officials ruled that his simple salute was excessive celebration. That forced Kansas State to try and tie the game with an 18-yard two-point conversion, but Coffman's pass fell incomplete and the Wildcats couldn't execute an onside kick.
Turning point: The flag after the touchdown. We might have been headed to overtime, but Kansas State had to settle for a low-percentage conversion and couldn't do it. Officials should have kept the flag in their pocket on a celebration that was hardly excessive, and especially a flag that had such a profound impact on the final score. Kansas State and its fans have a right to be angry. You feel bad for Hilburn, whose celebration (of his second career touchdown, by the way) was by no means out of line, but ended up costing the Wildcats the game. He didn't deserve that.
Player of the game: Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse. Kansas State had no answer defensively for the balanced back who ran over and around Wildcats defenders all day. He finished with 202 yards and a pair of TDs on 28 carries.
Unsung hero: Carson Coffman, QB, Kansas State. The Orange keyed in on Daniel THomas, but the maligned senior quarterback made play after play to keep the Wildcats alive, including catching a 29-yard pass from Daniel Thomas earlier in the game to set up a touchdown. He finished 17-of-23 for 229 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and ran for 26 yards on nine carries.
Best call: Trailing 33-28 in the fourth quarter after a Syracuse touchdown, Kansas State ran a flea flicker and completed an underthrown ball to Aubrey Quarles for 41 yards, setting up what they hoped was an eventual go-ahead touchdown, but the drive ended in the failed fake field goal.
Second guessing: I loved the late fake field goal from Kansas State, but hated the execution. That deep, there wasn't going to be enough room to run the ball up the middle, and the Wildcats needed some misdirection or trickery in the form of a pass to the kicker or a leaking receiver to make that play a success.
What it means: The Big 12 drops to 1-3 in bowl season now, with a pair of losses to Big Ten teams and one the Big East. The late flag will overshadow a bit of the loss, but the Wildcats return to the postseason for the first time since 2006 had an ugly finish.
Record performance: With his performance, Thomas moved into second place all-time for rushing yards at Kansas State. Only Darren Sproles has more, but most impressively, Thomas did it in two years as a juco transfer.