BOULDER - Josh Freeman completed 22 of 26 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns Saturday to lift Kansas State to a 34-21 victory over Colorado that earned the Wildcats bowl eligibility in head coach Ron Prince's first season.
This is the first time Kansas State (6-4, 3-3 Big 12) has been eligible for a bowl since it won the Big 12 championship in 2003.
The Wildcats' first win in Boulder since 2000 also kept alive their slim chances of winning the Big 12 North. They need to win out and have both Nebraska and Missouri lose their remaining games.
In a battle of first-year Big 12 coaches - Prince and Dan Hawkins were hired just 11 days apart last December - the contest appeared headed toward the wire.
Trailing 17-0 at halftime, Colorado drew within 20-14 when quarterback Bernard Jackson went 62 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to put pressure on Kansas State. It was the longest run by a Buffaloes quarterback since Darian Hagan's 71-yard run against Colorado State on Sept. 9, 1989.
Kansas State got some breathing room when receiver Jordy Nelson caught a short pass, shed Colorado defender Cha'pelle Brown and sprinted 74 yards for a touchdown with 11:55 left. Nelson finished with 117 receiving yards. The Wildcats' Yamon Figurs added a 30-yard touchdown on a reverse late in the fourth quarter.
Jackson finished with 105 yards and two touchdowns rushing. He also had a 1-yard touchdown pass to Tyson DeVree.
Colorado (1-9, 1-5 Big 12) had just three first downs and 2 rushing yards in the first half, but rediscovered its offense in the second half, when it piled up 308 yards.
On the opening drive of the second half, Colorado moved the ball to the Kansas State 2, but on fourth-and-goal the Wildcats stuffed Jackson on a sneak.
Kansas State kicker Jeff Snodgrass kicked two field goals, including a 46-yarder one second before halftime.
Jackson and receiver Stephone Robinson fumbled an exchange on a reverse and Kansas State's Justin McKinney recovered the ball on the Buffs 16. The Wildcats capitalized on the miscue when Freeman found Figurs for a 9-yard touchdown.
Leon Patton scampered through a hole for a 15-yard touchdown run to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. Patton finished with 96 yards and has scored in four of his last five games.
Snodgrass and Mason Crosby each missed field goals in the first quarter. Snodgrass' 47-yard attempt hit the left upright and Crosby's 51-yard try was wide left.
Crosby was named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award - given to the best college place-kicker - on Thursday.