Third-quarter touchdown runs of 12 and six yards by junior Josh Scobey three minutes apart were the difference as Kansas State improved its four-year record to 44-8, including three bowl victories.
The Wildcats (11-3) joined The Florida State Seminoles as the only teams to reach the 11-win plateau in four consecutive seasons.
After losing to # 1 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Conference championship game, Wildcats head coach Bill Snyder gave his players the chance to vote on whether or not they wanted to accept a Cotton Bowl Classic bid. The vote was unanimous, and the Wildcats played well in their second trip to Dallas in five years.
Having lost the 1997 Cotton Bowl Classic to BYU, the Wildcats scored on their second possession and led 21-7 just 19½ minutes into the contest.
Senior quarterback Jonathan Beasley ran for a 14-yard score and threw TD passes of 56 and 10 yards to Quincy Morgan to give Kansas State the two-touchdown advantage.
The Wildcats frustrated Tennessee freshman quarterback Casey Clausen into a miserable 7-of-25, three-interception performance. Clausen did throw a 17-yard TD pass to TE David Martin, forcing a 7-7 tie in the first minute of the second quarter.
Scobey set a Kansas State bowl record by rushing for 147 yards on 28 carries, breaking the mark of 133 yards set by J.J. Smith in the 1993 Copper Bowl. Beasley added 98 yards on 17 attempts while completing 13-of-27 passes for 210 yards.
Tennessee's Travis Henry carried 17 times for 180 yards, 81 coming on a late touchdown scamper. The Volunteers (8-4) had their seven-game winning streak halted.