Bowl win along with young talent can springboard new era

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It had been 11 long years since anyone in a K-State jersey had tasted the sweet victory that comes with winning a bowl game. On Saturday night in Tempe, Ariz. the K-State Wildcats ended that streak with a big 31-14 win over the Michigan Wolverines.

The win over Michigan might be the end to one season, but it could easily be considered the start of something far greater. Head coach Bill Snyder often mentions how beneficial bowl games are from the aspect of additional practice time. Players are able to get extra reps and practices and coaches are able to evaluate more guys during those practices.

On Saturday, many players stepped up for the Wildcats, many of which still have time left at K-State. Juniors Tyler Lockett and Jake Waters were among the players who highlighted the day for K-State.

Waters finished the game having completed 21 of his 27 pass attempts for 271 yards and three touchdowns. The junior college transfer also got out of the pocket when he needed to, scrambling for 42 yards include a 21 yard run.

The former junior college player of the year had an up and down season. There were moments when Waters struggled, but there were also moments when the junior showed a lot of promise. Co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel mentioned that Waters had showed good signs as early as the game against Texas.

“He was making some passes in that ball game that (the coaches) were like ‘we haven’t had a quarterback that could spin the ball like that for a long time,'” Dimel said. “He made some mistakes, but he made some plays in that game alone that got us really excited about what he’s going to progress to be.”

Lockett made Waters’ job that much easier on Saturday. The junior receiver tied the K-State bowl record with three touchdown receptions on the day. The duo was effective all year, but what’s next for the two? Both are expected to be right back in Manhattan next season.

Other key members of the 2013 who could be back for the Wildcats next season are offensive linemen BJ Finney and Cody Whitehair along with wide receivers Curry Sexton and Kyle Klein. On the defensive side, the Wildcats will be returning safety Dante Barnett who was named the defensive player of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Other key returners for the defense include all-american defensive end Ryan Mueller as well as Travis Britz. K-State will also return a strong linebacking core highlighted by junior Jonathan Truman.

There is excitement in the Manhattan air when it comes to K-State football. In the past three seasons, the Wildcats have won 29 games, a Big 12 title and a bowl game of the all-time winningest FBS football program. With Snyder at the helm, there is no saying what this team’s limits are. The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl might be just one game, but in 10 years it is possible that we could look back and see that it was a spring board to a new era in K-State football.

I think this really sets the foundation for next year, because you have a lot of guys who are happy right now in the locker room,” Lockett said. “We all know how it feels to lose in a bowl game and not know what to do for seven months because you don’t get another chance until you play your first game in late August. So, I mean, being able to win this bowl game, it brings a spark to us even going into next year.”

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