Michigan wide receiver Dennis Norfleet, front, is tackled by Kansas State linebacker Blake Slaughter during the first half.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The freshman phenom couldn’t do it by himself, and his defense couldn’t manage much to help the cause.
The Michigan football team completed a two-month-long metamorphosis Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium. The Wolverines went from an offensively anemic team in November to one that hung with a top-ten ranked program in its final game of the season.
Then, against a middle-of-the-pack Big 12 Conference opponent in a holiday-season bowl game, the Wolverines withered.
Tyler Lockett scored three touchdowns and caught a game-high 10 passes for 116 yards to help Kansas State to a 31-14 win over Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
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Shane Morris, the freshman pushed into duty following the loss of Devin Gardner to turf toe, held his own (24-38 passing for 196 yards, with one interception) in front of an announced crowd of 53,284, and his offensive line protected him.
Michigan’s defense, however, couldn’t bottle up Lockett or the rest of Kansas State’s offense, for that matter. By halftime, the Wildcats (8-5) had taken a 15-point lead and held Michigan to just 10 first-half yards on nine carries.
“One thing that Coach [Bill] Snyder always used to say is that we had to start out strong,” said Lockett, who was named the bowl game MVP. “It’s one of the things we emphasized day in and day out throughout this whole bowl preparation.”
Michigan (7-6) finished with 65 rushing yards and one touchdown - less than half of Kansas State’s output of 149 rushing yards.
Michigan quarterback Shane Morris (7) throws to teammate Jake Butt (88) as Kansas State defensive end Ryan Mueller (44) defends during the first half of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl NCAA college football game on Saturday.
“Running the football has got to be a premium for us, and we didn’t do that well enough,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “Then, once we got down 21-6, we had to throw it a little more.
“I don’t think we planned on throwing as much as we ended up. I don’t know how many times [Shane Morris] ended up throwing it, but more than we’d like.”
Michigan’s only bright spot? Jeremy Gallon set Michigan’s single-season record for receiving yards (1,373) in the fourth. Gallon finished with nine catches for 89 yards and bested the record of 1,330 set by Braylon Edwards in 2004.
“The record right now doesn’t mean anything without a win, especially with these guys,” Gallon said. “With that being said, I feel like Shane held his own. We didn’t play the way we were supposed to or the way we prepared all this week.
“Right now, I don’t care about the record.”
Lockett gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Waters with 7:19 left in the first, and on the ensuing drive, Morris steered the Wolverines to the Kansas State 5, but was unable to complete a pair of passes to Gallon and Devin Funchess, which set up Matt Wile's 22-yard field goal.
Waters (21 for 27 passing, 271 yards) connected again with Lockett with 43 seconds left in the first for a 29-yard touchdown, and Wile's second field goal of the game helped Michigan cut Kansas State's lead to 14-6 with 7:09 left in the half.
Lockett’s third touchdown, an 8-yard catch three minutes later, helped Kansas State (8-5) take a 21-6 lead.
While Morris was formidable in the first half, going 15 for 19 passing for 121 yards at halftime, Michigan’s defense staggered. The Wolverines allowed Kansas State 210 yards in the first half and the Wildcats were 4 for 4 on third-down conversions, while Michigan was 3 for 6 in the first half.
“We weren’t executing on third downs,” Michigan linebacker Desmond Morgan said. “That’s always a problem. If you can’t get off the field, then that’s going to turn into long drives and that never really goes in your favor.”
After a scoreless third quarter, Wildcats kicker Ian Patterson kicked a 22-yard field goal with 8:09 left in the fourth, and Morris’ interception set up John Hubert's 1-yard touchdown run with 2:25 left.
Fitzgerald Toussaint scored Michigan's only touchdown, a 3-yard run with 1:15 left.
“It’s never what I do as an individual, it’s what we do as a team,” said Toussaint, who finished with two carries for three yards. “We didn’t get that accomplished. It doesn’t feel good. It’s bittersweet.”