SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The fact that Kansas State hasn’t won a bowl game in 11 years doesn’t carry a lot of water with Brady Hoke. Nor does the fact that one of Kansas State’s quarterbacks grew up a die-hard Michigan football fan.
After all, so did Hoke’s freshman quarterback.
Hoke isn’t focusing on the external hoopla that comes with playing in a holiday-season bowl game. Instead, he’s focusing on key points for the Michigan football team, and what the Wolverines need to do to carry over its consistency from a regular season-ending loss to Ohio State nearly a month ago.
Michigan (7-5) faces Kansas State (7-5) in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at 10:15 p.m. today at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., the first meeting between the two teams.
“We are a young team,” Michigan’s third-year football coach said Friday at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn and Resort. “I know we want to finish for our seniors well. We haven’t been a great finishing team the last five weeks of the season. We need to do that. I think there will be some lessons learned, like always, from this experience that we have out here.”
RELATED: Game day thoughts from Tempe, Ariz.
Michigan will do so with freshman quarterback Shane Morris, who makes his first collegiate start today, and will do so with a running game that struggled through the bulk of November.
“We’d like to be able to run the ball and let the tailbacks get loose a little bit, try and control the line of scrimmage,” Hoke said. “Have Shane do a great job of managing the game, making the throws off the play‑action and that stuff that we think he can do a good job with.”
Like many other teams this season, K-State has limited access to watching film of Morris, who has appeared in just four games this season.
“I think just the fact that he’s left‑handed as opposed to being right‑handed, that alters some things for us to a certain degree,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. “As I said before, there’s no way that I could guess exactly how they would utilize the young man. But you have to prepare for their offense. He is a part of it, but there’s 10 other guys that are pretty effective players that will certainly be actively involved in their offensive plan.”
INTERIOR DECORATING: Snyder was an assistant coach on Hayden Fry’s staff at Iowa from 1979 to the end of the 1988 season, and he recalled how the Hawkeyes prepared to face the Wolverines.
Snyder also explained how Michigan coach Bo Schembechler prepared for Iowa — a well-known pre-game ritual in college football.
“Bo had a major history behind him,” Snyder said. “He used to get upset at Hayden all the time because Hayden would paint the visitor’s locker room pink all the time. But Bo solved the problem. He was probably the only coach that did.
“Bo would bring brown wrapping paper on their trips to Manhattan, and he would have his student managers go in and cover the walls with brown wrapping paper so he wouldn’t have to look at the calming effect of pink.”
ON THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE: Snyder was asked about the advent of the four-team College Football Playoff, which begins next season.
“The game has moved toward television, dollars and cents,” said Snyder, who makes a base salary of $2.75 million this season and has said in the past that he is “grossly overpaid” for what he does for a living. “That’s really what it’s all about right now. I’ve just always believed that it sent a bad message to young people, sent a bad message I think to a lot of people. I understand it. I mean, I understand why it is as it is right now. I can’t tell you that I have the answers for it.
“It gives a young 18 [or] 20‑year‑old a little different perspective on what life is really all about. That concerns me a great deal.”
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
■ Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is known for his longevity in college football, and it’s likely that he’s seen a few injuries in his day. Given that, he was asked Friday morning about his familiarity with turf toe — what Michigan coach Brady Hoke said has plagued Devin Gardner since the end of November. “I can't tell you that we've had a lot of youngsters that have suffered that, but we have had some,” Snyder said. “The recovery time has been varied for all of them, I think. So I don't know that the doctors can put a timeframe on it. The seriousness of it, I guess, varies. I can't tell you much more than that.”
■ Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters apparently bled maize and blue, as he grew up a Michigan fan. But this was news to Snyder. Also to Hoke, who gave more credence to Waters as an athlete than as one of the Wolverine faithful. “What buys us credit is the competitor that he is, when you watch him on the field,” Hoke said. “He does a nice job of managing the different things offensively and at the same time he's a guy who makes plays.”
■ Bowls and, well, bowls. Mark Mitchell, the mayor of Tempe, presented Snyder and Hoke with dishware designed by a local artist as a gift from the city to the coaches. Another piece of hardware sat nearby — the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl trophy.