TEMPE, Ariz. - Michigan gave Kansas State something to brag about. Michigan gave Kansas State a signature win ... over a team that can finally be deemed mediocre.
Never mind that Kansas State played in the Fiesta Bowl last year with Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein. Bill Snyder can now tell Kansas State's recruits that it earned a win over one of the nation's winningest programs.
Snyder may be too virtuous and maybe too old-fashioned to say as much, but the spin will be in after Michigan lost to essentially a middle-of-the-pack Big 12 Conference team that struggled through the first half of the season and found its footing in October in order to become bowl-eligible.
Saturday night reprised Michigan's same old struggles this season. Michigan couldn't get its running game started, and had only 10 yards on the ground at halftime. The Wolverines had no answer for bowl MVP Tyler Lockett - the Big 12's leader in all-purpose yards. The rest of the offense (save for the offensive line) did not support Shane Morris, who held his own as a true freshman in his first collegiate start.
This, essentially, is what we saw the second half of the season from Michigan. A team with no established running game that allowed middle-of-the road teams to remain ahead of or within reach of them.
Michigan played down to the Big Ten's competitive level, save for the Ohio State game. And Michigan brought down itself.
If you want to get a sense of what the postgame was like, here are two examples:
Al Borges declined to comment as he walked out of the locker room - and in the opposite direction of the team bus.
Saturday was Michigan's final - and only - shot at redeeming this season. Instead, it set a new standard for itself.
"We don't want this season ever to happen again,” sophomore tight end Devin Funchess said. “Not a season where we’re 7-6. We don’t want that again."
Three thoughts from the Phoenix area:
If you're a Pittsburgh ex-pat like me, hit up Pittsburgh Willy's in Chandler, Ariz. If you talk to Randy, the proprietor, for a few minutes, it's like being back in Bloomfield.
I did not use the hashtag "#EMAW" once on this trip, if only to appease my husband, a Kansas graduate.
It was so great to see my college classmate Carmen here in the Valley of the Sun. Friends make for better road trips.