GLENDALE, Ariz. – It didn’t take long for the Oregon Ducks to make an impression on the Kansas State Wildcats, one kickoff and one kickoff returner. Oregon took the lead on a 94-yard De’Anthony Thomas kickoff return touchdown and from that point, never looked back. Oregon won the 2013 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl by beating Kansas State, 35-17.
(PHOTO) Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota scores on a 2-yard run against Kansas State at the 2013 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl played at Univ. of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. on Jan. 3, 2013. (Photo by Rich Kolbell)
“I just feel like my role in this game was just to be a momentum builder and a game changer,” said Thomas. “Once I seen that opening field, I just wanted to get to the end zone fast and celebrate with my team and get ready for the next play.”
While the Ducks seemed to struggle on offense at times, the Duck defense particularly in the first half kept Collin Klein and the Wildcats at bay. Oregon scored twice in the first quarter, on Thomas’ 94-yard kickoff return and then later on when Thomas hauled in a 23-yard pass from Marcus Mariota. KSU, held scoreless in the first quarter responded with a TD on Klein’s 6-yard run into the endzone, then later on in the quarter get 3-points on a field goal from Anthony Cantele, good from 25 yards out.
After the Ducks failed to convert on fake punt later in the second quarter, KSU had an excellent chance to get points, but Cantele missed from 40 yards out. With only one minute left in the half, Oregon led by Offensive MVP Marcus Mariota drove 77-yards down the field in 46 seconds to score on a Mariota-to-Kenjon Barner pass covering 24 yards. The half ended and Oregon was up 22-10.
“We started playing at our pace,” said Mariota of the game. “That really allowed us to get stuff going and get in a rhythm.”
Oregon took control of the game in the second half by scoring 10 points when Alejandro Maldonado booted a 33-yard field goal and Mariota ran for a 2-yard touchdown, making it 32-10. KSU simply could not generate a fast enough pace to cut into the margin despite scoring a fourth quarter touchdown when Klein tossed a shovel pass to John Hubert covering 10 yards. Oregon’s final score was a 24-yard Maldonado field goal.
“We just talked at halftime that we need to go back to tempo,” observed Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly. “Then when you get a lead, you have to be able to play both games. I thought Marcus did a great job of managing it.”
Mariota was named Offensive Player of the Game based on his 12-for-24 passing for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Mariota was not intercepted but was sacked once. The talented Oregon signal caller also rushed for 62 yards and touchdown. Kenjon Barner closed out his Oregon career with 31 carries for 143 net yards averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Thomas was the leading Oregon receiver with four catches for 60 yards and a touchdown but it was Colt Lyerla’s three catches for 52 yards that was the most yards for an Oregon receiver.
Defensively, Michael Clay’s nine total tackles (eight solos) including two tackles for loss, one being a sack, earned Clay the Defensive Player of the Game award for the game. Oregon had a total of six TFLs, Clay’s two, Kiko Alonso with two while Boseko Lokombo and Taylor Hart had one each. Erick Dargan recorded both interceptions in the game. Oregon also had five break ups during the game.
“We just talked about it as a team, the drops, we were alerted that was coming, stayed focused, read our keys,” said Erick Dargan about the adjustments the Duck defense made at halftime.
On special teams, the obvious big play was by Thomas, who ran a reported 26 mph during the return. One of the other particularly unusual plays was a one-point safety that occurred after Oregon scored on Mariota’s third quarter touchdown. Maldonado’s PAT attempt was blocked but the ball was caught mid-air by a KSU defender, Allen Chapman in the field of play. After catching the ball Chapman ran back into the endzone and was tackled allowing Oregon to be awarded the 1-point safety. Oregon special teams also contributed when Oregon long snapper Jeff Palmer snapped the ball directly to Dion Jordan who was able to run the ball into the end zone for the 2-point conversion.
Oregon had a season low of 385 yards total offense but the Ducks held KSU to 283 yards of total offense. The Ducks were penalized five times for minus 33 yards and the Wildcats were flagged seven times for a total of minus 57 yards. There were two interceptions (both by Oregon) and no fumbles.
Klein finished the game throwing for 151 yards on 17-of-32 and one touchdown pass to John Hubert. Hubert was the leading Wildcat rusher with 17 carries for 55 net yards. Former Duck Chris Harper was the leader in receptions for KSU with eight catches for 71 yards. Cantele attempted two field goals and was successful on one (25 yards). Arthur Brown was the leading tackler with nine total tackles (seven solos) including TFL.
"Obviously we lost to an extremely fine football team,” said KSU Head Coach Bill Snyder of the game. “We made mistakes early in the ballgame that, you know, were very costly. As I said to our football team, no one gave up. I appreciated their effort. We didn't play as well as we're capable of playing.”
Kelly, the subject of much speculation regarding moving on to the NFL addressed several questions during the post-game media conference. He did admit that he will look at offers but qualified his response saying that any success he’s enjoyed at Oregon is because of the players. He also responded to a question about a chant from the fans after the game calling for him to stay with the Ducks.
“I think it just really for me reaffirms what this place is all about. It's a special place with special people,” said Kelly of the fans and Oregon supporters. “They accepted me six years ago when I was at New Hampshire. Not many people knew about me. Gave me an opportunity to come here. It really means a lot.”
• FR QB Marcus Mariota set the Oregon single-season record for total touchdowns with 38 (32 passing, 5 rushing, 1 receiving), breaking the previous mark of 36 shared by Darron Thomas (2011) and Akili Smith (1998).
• Mariota, who was named offensive player of the game, set the school mark for completion percentage at 68.5%. He also moved to No. 9 on UO's single-season passing ledger with 2,739 yards. His 3,429 yards of total offense is second only to Smith's 3,947 in 1998.
• SR RB Kenjon Barner with the second-highest rushing total in a season at UO with 1,767 yards after his 143-yard performance.
• Barner surpassed the 100-yard mark for the 14th time in his career, tying Jonathan Stewart for second all-time at Oregon.
• Barner finished his career with 5,848 all-purpose yards - just 21 yards shy of LaMichael James' (2009-11) school record of 5,869. He ended the season with 2,023 - fourth-most in a year at UO.
• With one receiving touchdown, Barner ended his career with 42 total TDs, breaking a tie with Derek Loville (41, 1986-89) for second at Oregon.
• The 94-yard return on the opening kickoff by SO RB De'Anthony Thomas was the longest all-purpose play in UO's bowl history, eclipsing his own 91-yard rush vs. Wisconsin in the 2012 Rose Bowl Game and Walter Thurmond's 91-yard kickoff return in the 2008 Holiday Bowl.
• Thomas' opening score was the fastest to start a bowl game in Oregon history (12 seconds).
• Thomas now owns the Oregon career bowl record for all-purpose yards with 509 on only 19 touches, breaking Jonathan Stewart's previous mark of 464 from 2005-07.
• With two touchdowns in the game, Thomas finished the season with 108 points, good for No. 8 on the UO single-season chart
• SO S Erick Dargan made an interception for the third straight game, finishing with a pair in the game.
• SR LB Michael Clay had a game-high (tied) nine tackles, including a sack and 2.0 TFL en route to defensive player of the game honors.
• Oregon improved to 3-2 all-time in BCS bowl games, winning the Fiesta Bowl for the second time in as many chances (2001 season).
• The Ducks finished with 12 wins for a third straight season and third time in school history.
• Head coach Chip Kelly improved his bowl record to 2-2 - all in BCS bowl games.