The Oregon Ducks were too much for the Kansas State Wildcats in a 35-17 win in the Fiesta Bowl, and now it remains to be seen if Oregon coach Chip Kelly will remain in Eugene.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Oregon sputtered on offense at times in the first half, but once the Ducks got going, the Kansas State Wildcats were no match. Oregon rolled to a 35-17 win in the Fiesta Bowl Thursday night and won its second BCS bowl game in two years.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota upstaged Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein, his K-State counterpart. Mariota, a redshirt freshman who could one day himself be in the Heisman conversation, ran for 71 yards and a touchdown and passed for two scores and 166 yards. Klein threw for 151 yards and a TD but was picked off twice, and rushed for 42 yards and a TD.
Ducks senior Kenjon Barner, stymied in the first half, had 25 yards at halftime but ended up with 143 on 31 carries and a receiving touchdown.
The Ducks (12-1) led from beginning to end, getting off to a flying start when De'Anthony Thomas took the game's opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. Thomas had a big game in the Rose Bowl last year, and continued his January excellence.
And yet the game was only part of the show, as Oregon coach Chip Kelly fielded questions about his future in the postgame press conference. Kelly, it was reported widely, has interviews scheduled with the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns for their open head coach jobs. But he denied having spoken to any team as yet after the Fiesta Bowl.
Kelly did say he will listen to any offers. The "Dave" he refers to is his agent, David Dunn.
Kelly evaded other NFL-related questions, deflected a question about possible NCAA sanctions against the Oregon program and answered questions about the game. When the lengthy session had ended, he muttered to an official that it was the record for the longest press conference he's ever done. Kelly is no fan of those.
Back to the game.
Oregon led 15-0, but Kansas State controlled time of possession in the first half and put together a long drive of 10 plays and 58 yards helped by pass interference penalty on the Ducks. Klein ran in for a six-yard score to make it 15-7 with 13:26 left in the second quarter.
Kansas State's game plan was obvious from the start: keep possession on offense for as long as possible. Though the Wildcats got down by 15 early, they methodically worked the ball down the field for a field and took eight minutes off the clock in the second quarter to make the score 15-10.
The Wildcats (11-2) had all the momentum after forcing a three-and-out and thwarting a fake punt. But an attempt to draw the Ducks defense offside on a third down backfired with a false start, and the field goal try on the next play was no good. Oregon got the ball with a minute until halftime and needed only 46 seconds to score.
Mariota found a wide open Barner for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds left in the half to make the scored 22-10.
Oregon's defense cranked it up in the third quarter, its pass rush getting pressure on Klein with back-to-back hurries and hits on Klein as he threw the ball. It helped that Klein's release looked deliberate and he failed to impress much with his arm.
After a field goal by Alejandro Maldonado, Oregon forced another punt and marched the ball 61 yards in seven plays, Mariota running for a touchdown. A rare one-point safety was called when Kansas State blocked the extra point but their player was tackled in the end zone by the Ducks.
Oregon led 32-10 and the Wildcats were in crisis mode. But K-State forced a turnover on downs with a sack of Mariota, and needed five minutes for a touchdown drive to make the score 32-17. Klein tossed to John Hubert for a 10-yard score with 11:35 to play in the game.
The Wildcats needed stops on defense in the fourth quarter down two scores, but Oregon was able to run the clock. The Ducks tacked on another field goal and those in yellow in the crowd of 70,242 cheered as the Ducks celebrated on the field.
Mariota was named the offensive player of the game and linebacker Michael Clay, with nine tackles including a sack and two tackles for loss, was the defensive MVP.