A little too much enthusiasm, though, cost the Wildcats.
Delone Carter ran for career-high 198 yards and two touchdowns, Marcus Sales caught three long TD passes and Syracuse got some help from a celebration penalty on Kansas State to beat the Wildcats 36-34 on Thursday at Yankee Stadium.
Adrian Hilburn slipped a tackle and raced to a 30-yard touchdown catch with 1:13 remaining to pull Kansas State within two. Hilburn saluted the crowd behind the visitor's dugout and was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, which pushed the 2-point conversion attempt back to the 17-yard line.
"I didn't see it, I heard he just did a salute, which is kind of bogus," Kansas State quarterback Carson Coffman said. "It's something you can't do, we know that. Adrian is our guy, we're not mad at him for it, but I thought it was a little bit of a bogus call."
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Coffman overthrew Aubrey Quarles in the end zone, and when Kansas State (7-6) couldn't come up with the onside kick, Syracuse (8-5) only had to take a knee to win a bowl game for the first time since 2001.
Daniel Thomas ran for three touchdowns for Kansas State, which was making its first bowl appearance since 2006.
In a bowl season filled with blowouts so far, the first bowl game in New York in 48 years turned out to be a hit.
The teams traded long gainers right from the start - Thomas went 51 yards for a score on the second play from scrimmage - and scored touchdowns on the first five second-half possessions.
Both teams pulled off successful flea-flickers, with Syracuse's going for its first touchdown.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, sensing field goals would not be enough, called for a fake with 4:50 left in the fourth from the 11, but Syracuse stacked up Ryan Doerr on the run.
Snyder passed on commenting on the celebration penalty, instead blaming himself for the fake field goal.
"I went for the (fake) field goal, which in hindsight was not - wasn't a good call," he said.
Carter, a fifth-year senior who has endured a major hip injury and plenty of losses during his time at Syracuse, broke free for a 60-yard run on the next play.
It set up Ross Krautman's 40-yard field goal with 3:08 left that made it 36-28.
Too much time.
Coffman, who played brilliantly in his last college game, led the Wildcats into Syracuse territory and connected with Hilburn near the sideline about 10 yards down field. After winning a footrace to the end zone, he dropped the ball, did a quick salute and turned to celebrate with teammates.
"That kind of crushes it for me," said Hilburn, who caught five passes for 84 yards. "I'd take no catches if we had a win. it just crushes me. I don't feel like it's a great game to end that way."
Big Ten referee Todd Geerlings said both the head linesman and the back judge threw flags for excessive celebration - rule 9-1-1d - because Hilburn was drawing attention to himself.
"These kinds of excessive celebrations have been a priority in the rulebook for the last several years," Geerlings told a pool reporter. "There's a whole page in the rulebook pertaining to sportsmanship."
The 2-point attempt turned into a desperation play.
Syracuse linebacker Doug Hogue said he was "all smiles" when he noticed those flags.
"I didn't know what happened, I didn't see what happened," he said. "I was just like, this is an opportunity for us to step up and that's what we did."
Coffman finished 17 for 23 for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas was held to 90 yards on 22 carries by a defense that was geared to stop him.
Ryan Nassib passed for 239 yards and hooked up with Sales on touchdowns of 52, 36 and 44 yards in Syracuse's first bowl appearance since 2006.
Second-year coach Doug Marrone, a Bronx native whose grandfather was an usher at the original Yankee Stadium, has quickly turned around a Syracuse program that was flailing when he arrived.
"We won a lot of battles off the field, but now we are staring to win them on the field," he said.
It was Big East against the Big 12 in the first bowl game in New York since the Gotham Bowl matched Nebraska and Miami at the original Yankee Stadium in 1962. The final score in that one, by the way, Cornhuskers 36-34.
The weather Thursday was pretty much as expected: cold.
But temperatures in the 30s were more than tolerable for the crowd of 38,274 - more than 44,000 tickets were sold, the Yankees said - especially considering 16 inches of snow got dumped on the city four days earlier. And the snow piled as much as 8 feet high next to the outfield walls and behind the end zone where home plate usually sits just added to the scenery.
Those who decided to brave the chill or make the long trip from the Little Apple (Manhattan, Kan.) to the Big Apple were rewarded with doozy of a game.
It was tied at 14 at the half, and Syracuse started the second attacking Kansas State's faulty run defense, which ranked 118th in the country after the regular season. Carter's easy 7-yard TD run gave Syracuse a 21-14 lead.
"We knew we were going to have some seams and we took advantage of it," Carter said.
Coffman tied it at 21 with a 10-yard TD toss to Chris Harper and Carter came right back with a 15-yard TD run. But Krautman knocked the point after wide and Syracuse led 27-21 heading into the fourth quarter.
Thomas gave Kansas State a 28-27 lead on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal with 11:03 left in the fourth.
Sales, who came in with one touchdown on the season, got his third of the game with 7:52 left, but Syracuse's 2-point attempt failed and it was 33-28 Orange.