Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, December 29, 2013
The calendar flipped to December, but Michigan?s misery continued. This 31-14 loss to Kansas State on Saturday night in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl was the Wolverines? third defeat in succession and fifth in six games.
So, after that 5-0 start, Michigan went 2-6. And the wins were vs. Indiana and Northwestern (on a miracle late field goal in three overtimes). Michigan has lost at least five games in five of the last six seasons. K-State ended a five-bowl losing streak, for what that?s worth.
BEST OF BUFFALO WILD WINGS BOWL
Best play: Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters hit Tyler Lockett for a 29-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. It was a pretty connection and was a big storyline of the game, as the duo hooked up for three scores. How good was Waters? The JC transfer hit 21-of-27 passes for 271 yards and ran 12 times for 42 yards.
Best player: Could have gone with Jake Waters. But, let?s go with K-State receiver Tyler Lockett. Michigan still hasn?t figured out how to cover him. He burned the Wolverines for 10 catches for 116 yards and three touchdowns. Lockett?s numbers could have been even better had he not dropped a TD pass in the third quarter.
Best moment: 74-year-old Bill Snyder trying to dodge a Gatorade bath at the 2:25 mark of the fourth quarter. The iconic Snyder showed some good moves and avoided the drenching for a bit. But, he finally succumbed.
Best stat: 75 percent. That was Kansas State?s completion percentage, hitting 21-of-28 passes. All night, Michigan looked lost in coverage.
Offense: F. The maligned attack continued its year-long struggles. No doubt, not having injured QB Devin Gardner (toe) hurt. Michigan had just 10 yards rushing on nine carries at halftime. The offense finished the game with 65 yards rushing on 15 carries. But, don?t be fooled: 40 yards came on a meaningless run late in the game. The Wolverines tried all types of gimmicky tricks to run the ball, using counters, reverses, etc. None of it worked for an offense that managed just two field goals when the game was still meaningful.
Defense: F. The unit got shredded from the start, as K-State took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards on 14 plays over 7:41 to take a 7-0 lead. If ever an opening drive set the tenor and tone of a game, this was it. The Wildcats had four first-half drives; three resulted in touchdowns. The fourth ended because of the half. Start the bus.
Special Teams: C. Michigan?s lone meaningful points came on field goals from Matt Wile, who nailed 22- and 26-yard kicks in the first half before Michigan tallied a garbage touchdown in the dying minutes of the game with KSU up 31-6. The coverage units? Not good, as K-State averaged 37 yards on two kickoff returns.
It was over when: When the Michigan bus pulled up to the stadium. Well, not really. But it wasn?t long thereafter. Kansas State took a 21-6 halftime edge, as Michigan showed little fight on either side of the ball and flat-out was out muscled and out toughed. And out coached, too. The Wildcats out gained the Wolverines, 210-131, in the first half. It was total domination that continued for four quarters. The final score could have been worse had K-State not missed a 40-yard field goal and dropped a touchdown pass in the third quarter.
What worked: Freshman quarterback Shane Morris showed some promise for Michigan, making his first career start. He hit 15-of-19 passes for 121 yards in the first half en route to finishing 24-of-38 for 196 yards with an interception. Morris also led the team in rushing with four totes for 43 yards. Forty of those came on one carry in the dying moments to set up the Wolverines? lone touchdown of the game. Michigan may have something in Morris.
What didn't work: I don?t have enough time to cover it all. But, let?s go with the defense. From the start, Michigan had no answer for K-State, allowing 420 yards. The Wolverines were generous through the air and the ground, allowing 271 yards passing and 149 yards rushing. The Wildcats converted 7-of-11 on third downs and held the ball for 35:04. I think you get the idea.
|About Tom Dienhart
|BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.
And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.