Fiesta Bowl: No. 5 Oregon 35, No. 7 Kansas St. 17: Ducks pounce early in victory

2013-01-04T00:00:00Z Fiesta Bowl: No. 5 Oregon 35, No. 7 Kansas St. 17: Ducks pounce early in victoryThe Associated Press The Associated Press
January 04, 2013 12:00 am  • 

GLENDALE - Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas raced 94 yards for a touchdown on the opening kickoff.

The fifth-ranked Ducks barely looked back after that.

Triggered by Thomas' attention-grabbing return, Oregon raced past No. 7 Kansas State 35-17 Thursday night at the Fiesta Bowl in what may have been coach Chip Kelly's final game with the Ducks.

Teams that had national title aspirations end on the same day in mid-November, Oregon and Kansas State ended up in the desert for a marquee matchup billed as a battle of styles: The fast-flying Ducks vs. the execution-is-everything Wildcats.

With Kelly reportedly talking to several NFL teams, Oregon (12-1) was too much for Kansas State and its Heisman Trophy finalist, Collin Klein. The Ducks tried to turn the game into a track meet, and it worked from the start.

"Our focus was on this game tonight," Kelly said. "If for some reason, someone wanted to talk to me, it's because of those players over there. We have an unbelievable team, an unbelievable program and any success is because of those guys."

Thomas followed his before-everyone-sat-down kickoff return with a 23-yard touchdown catch, finishing with 195 total yards.

Kenjon Barner ran for 143 yards on 31 carries and scored on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota in the second quarter.

"It's amazing," said Barner, a senior. "Just to go out like this, the Fiesta Bowl with my teammates, the coaching staff, I couldn't be happier."

Mariota later scored on a 2-yard run in the third quarter, capped by an obscure 1-point safety that went in the Ducks' favor after Kansas State was tackled in the end zone after trying to return a blocked extra point.

Even Oregon's defense got into the act, intercepting Klein twice and holding him to 30 rushing yards on 13 carries.

"We got beat by a better team tonight, combined by the fact that we let down from time to time," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said.

Whether Kelly leaves Eugene or not, he had a good run, leading the Ducks to four straight trips to BCS bowls, the last two wins.

Oregon has become the standard for go-go-go football under Kelly, its fleet of Ducks making those shiny green helmets and flashy uniforms blur across the grassy landscape.

Their backfield of Thomas, Barner and Mariota made up a three-headed monster of momentum, each one capable of turning a single play into a scoring drive of 60 seconds or less.

Mariota has been the show-running leader, a question mark before the season who ably ran Oregon's high-octane offense as a freshman quarterback.

Oregon won the Rose Bowl for the first time in 95 years last season and was in position for a spot in the BCS title game this year before losing a heartbreaker to Stanford on Nov. 17.

Thomas offered the first flash of speed, crossing into the end zone like a sprinter taking the finish-line tape after picking up a couple of blocks and racing past Oregon's bench for a touchdown on the opening kickoff.

The Ducks, as they are apt to do, went for 2 on the point-after and converted on a trick play to go up 8-0 in the game's first 12 seconds.

 

Today's game

Cotton Bowl

• Who: Texas A&M (10-2) vs. Oklahoma (10-2)

• When: 6:10 p.m. on Ch 11

• Key matchup: Quarterbacks, young and old, of high-scoring offenses that can put up points in a hurry. Oklahoma's Landry Jones is the steady record-setting veteran making his 50th career start; Johnny Manziel, the Aggies' exciting dual-threat player, is the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

Today

Cotton Bowl

• What: No. 10 Texas A&M vs. No. 12 Oklahoma

• Where: Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas

• When: 6 p.m.

• TV; radio: Ch 11; 1490-AM

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