It was over in 12 seconds. Kansas State did make a game of it for a short while, but for most of the way, the Oregon speedsters simply had too much of it, be it De’Anthony Thomas, Kenjon Barner or Marcus Mariota, to let anyone take away the Fiesta Bowl victory from them.
This was supposed to be the bowl game this month, aside from the national title game. Two teams that got the BCS berths to the Fiesta Bowl just by being excellent, not for winning a conference title (which Kansas State did), forcing one of the bowls to select you. Kansas State might not have been an exciting team in terms of flair, but you couldn’t deny its effectiveness on both defense and its rushing attack, led by Collin Klein.
Not on the final day of the season for them. Oregon’s defense has been underrated this season, because people look to much at the numbers, and too much at their offense. They’ve allowed 22 points per game this season only because their wins were taken care of before they even stepped on the field in the second half. Their loss to Stanford was the standout. The only game this season in which they didn’t win by at least 17 points was the 62-51 shootout against USC. A 12-1 season, in which the only loss was by three points in overtime, and all the wins, including against five ranked teams, have been in double digits.
And the differences in quality were too much for Kansas State to handle in the Fiesta Bowl, the school’s fifth consecutive Bowl game loss. De’Anthony Thomas scored a touchdown 12 seconds after the kickoff, returning it for 94 yards. He got on the board again late in the first quarter, catching a 23 yard pass from Mariota.
The Wildcats made sounds of a comeback, but that didn’t last. Oregon’s running game, gaining 219 yards on the ground, came into effect. Mariota scored and so did Kenjon Barner. All State had left was a meaningless passing touchdown for Klein to Hubert, as the game closed with a 35-17 win.
They talk about SEC speed, but no one scored in lightning-quick drives like Oregon have all season. They scored all four of its touchdowns in two minutes 30 seconds or less, including three such touchdowns on offense. The finish the season with an FBS-best 23 offensive touchdowns in one minute or less and 55 offensive touchdowns in two minutes, 30 seconds or less.
But again, defense deserves some credit for this win. A lot actually, which means they stopped Collin Klein. The number 3 in the Heisman voting finished with 151 passing yards and a touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions, 20% of Kansas State’s turnovers this season. The big key was stopping him on the ground, where he gained only 30 yards on 13 carries.
He had a season-low seven yards on designed rushes against Oregon and averaged 0.9 yards per carry on those rushes, his fewest in a game this season. He entered the Fiesta Bowl averaging 5 yards per carry on designed rushes and it was only the second time this season where he did not have a touchdown on a designed rush. Stopping the pass was also crucial: Klein was 0-for-6 and threw both of his interceptions on passes 10 yards or longer down-field against Oregon. In Kansas State’s two losses this season, Klein completed 23.2 percent of his passes thrown at least 10 yards down-field, compared to over 60 percent on such throws in the Wildcats’ 11 wins.
The big question for Oregon, reaching four consecutive BCS Bowl games and winning the last two, is what does Chip Kelly do. He’s going to interview for an NFL job, but he’s got championship material and pedigree in Eugene. His system fits College Football a whole lot better than it does the pros. He has helped continue the evolution of Oregon into a national powerhouse. He’s within touching distance of College Football’s biggest prize. It would be a shame if he left before his project is completed.