Last week I ranked the top five regular-season non-conference victories in K-State football history. This week I’m ranking the top bowl game victories in K-State history. It was kind of difficult to narrow the list down to five, so I used multiple criteria to choose from, including the quality of competition and how each victory impacted the overall visibility and growth of the K-State football program.
I always find an interesting tidbit or two when researching games from the past. For example, did you know that the highest-ranked team that K-State has beaten in a bowl game is number 14 Syracuse at the Fiesta Bowl in 1997? The Wildcats have played a few top five/top 10 teams such as Oregon, Ohio State, and Arkansas, but didn’t get a victory in any of those games.
Here are my top five bowl victories for Kansas State football…
5) 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl – Kansas State 31 Michigan 14
Although the 2013 Wolverines weren’t a great team, they were ranked as high as number 11 in the country at one point during the 2013 season. Let’s be honest, it’s Michigan, so it’s a big victory just because of the name. Not only that, the Cats dominated this game. It was never close. Quarterback Jake Waters was 21 of 27 for 271 yards and three touchdowns. Tyler Lockett had 10 of those catches for 116 yards and caught all three of Waters’ touchdowns.
4) 2002 Holiday Bowl – Kansas State 34 Arizona State 27
Kansas State entered the 2002 Holiday Bowl ranked number six in the country and played an unranked Arizona State team. The thing I remember most is how Arizona State defensive end Terrell Suggs dominated much of the game. Arizona State led 20-7 in the second quarter, but K-State outscored Arizona State 20-7 in the fourth quarter to get the victory. Ell Roberson passed for 215 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 63 yards. Darren Sproles had 118 yards rushing and a touchdown.
The comeback victory likely pushed K-State to receive enough votes to open the following season as the number seven team in the country.
3) 1993 Copper Bowl – Kansas State 52 Wyoming 17
Bill Snyder’s first bowl game as head coach, also Kansas State football’s first-ever bowl game victory, was never close. I remember before this game that the local and national pundits thought Wyoming would pose some problems for K-State and some even picked Wyoming to win. Instead, K-State’s speed was too much for Wyoming to overcome and the Wildcats made a huge statement on the national stage.
Wide receiver Andre Coleman had 283 yards of total offense and quarterback Chad May passed for 275 yards and two touchdowns.
The Copper Bowl victory was the first in a string of 11 straight bowl games for the Wildcats.
2) 2001 Cotton Bowl – Kansas State 35 Tennessee 21
K-State was ranked number 11 in the country when they played number 21 Tennessee in the 2001 Cotton Bowl. It was a battle of coaching legends: Bill Snyder vs. Phil Fulmer. Quarterback Jonathan Beasley passed for 210 yards and rushed for 98 yards and Josh Scobey had 147 yards on the ground. The temperature was a cool 29 degrees at kickoff and in the first half, the field was white with lingering snow and ice, making for a memorable backdrop.
1) 1997 Fiesta Bowl – Kansas State 35 Syracuse 18
This was the first “big” bowl game for K-State. In 1997 the Fiesta Bowl was a Bowl Alliance bowl, which was a precursor to the BCS. K-State entered the game with an 11-1 record and a number 10 national ranking. Syracuse entered the game as the Big East champion and ranked number 14 in the country. Syracuse was quarterbacked by dual-threat Donovan McNabb and everyone was looking forward to watching the quarterback match-up of McNabb vs. Michael Bishop.
Both quarterbacks put on a show. Bishop had 317 yards passing and four touchdowns and had 73 rushing yards. McNabb had 271 yards passing and 81 yards rushing. K-State receiver Darnell McDonald had 206 yards receiving and three touchdowns, propelling the Wildcats to the blowout victory.
K-State went on to compete for the national championship the following season.
*If you like what you’ve read from Joe Mathieu, find more on his personal K-State site: https://www.kstatejoe.com/*