After a disappointing 2-4 start to the season, Kansas State’s goal was to get to a bowl game.
The Wildcats met that goal.
Now comes another: the program’s first bowl victory in 11 years.
When the Wildcats take on Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl this weekend, they’ll be gunning to end a five-bowl losing streak that dates back 11 years.
Bill Snyder was coach for four of those defeats, which has given him a surprisingly mediocre 6-8 career bowl record.
“It’s obvious that one of my many failings is I don’t have the answer to that,” Snyder said, when asked to explain K-State’s bowl struggles. “It could be a multitude of things and perhaps it is, or perhaps it’s something simple I’m overlooking.
“We’ve played tremendously talented football teams, and sometimes just the depth segment of it catches up with you, but that should be an accurate assessment for most teams, not just ourselves. The bottom line is I really don’t know.”
The streak is bookended by losses to tremendous teams. The Wildcats lost to fourth-ranked Oregon 35-17 in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last year. And after the 2003 season, the Wildcats came up short against No. 7 Ohio State 35-28.
Yet in between, K-State also has bowl losses to teams not so tremendous. The Wildcats were blown out by Rutgers in the 2006 Texas Bowl. In 2010, K-State lost to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl after a celebration salute resulted in a controversial penalty that pushed a failed 2-point conversion attempt back to the 17-yard line that would have tied the game late.
''Nobody on our team has won a bowl game, with the exception of the coaches,'' said junior linebacker Jonathan Truman. ''We need it. We want it really bad.''
The Wildcats have a golden opportunity in the desert to finally end the streak.
K-State is better than a field goal favorite over Michigan, which played the Buckeyes tough in its regular-season finale, but has also lost five of its last seven games.
The Wildcats, after a bumpy start, closed out as one of the hotter teams in the Big 12, with wins in four of their final five games.
“A win would be huge for so many different reasons,” said wide receiver Curry Sexton. “Obviously, it has been 11 years since we have won a bowl game. Just to be able to end the season on a good note, to be able to send the seniors off with a win, head into the offseason with a win instead of heading into the offseason with a sour taste in your mouth. Every season has its own successes and failures, but anytime you end with a loss, it puts everything that went well in a negative light. The one thing that you are going to remember is how the season ended up.”
A victory over Michigan would paint this season in a positive light. It also would give K-State momentum going into what looks like a promising 2014 season.
They will also bring back one of the league’s top offensive playmakers in receiver Tyler Lockett, as well as one of its top defensive playmakers in end Ryan Mueller, who was second this season among Big 12 defenders in sacks.
The Wildcats, however, aren't looking to next season just yet. First, they have a slump to end.
“I’m tired of that after-the-game feeling of we can’t make coach [Snyder] happy at the end of the season,” Mueller said. “This next bowl game is going to lead to another opportunity. Hopefully after the game we can celebrate.”