January 3, 2012
De'Anthony Thomas returned the opening kick-off 94 yards for a touchdown and Oregon never trailed in a 35-17 Fiesta Bowl win over Kansas State on Thursday night in Glendale.
Oregon cemented a third consecutive 12-win season and kept Kansas State from reaching that milestone for the first time in its history.
These schools were set up to play for the BCS Championship game before each was upended on November 17 when Kansas State was crushed 52-24 at Baylor and Oregon lost 17-14 in overtime at home Stanford. Kansas State was No. 1 in the BCS and Oregon was No. 2 heading into that weekend.
Oregon played in its 4th-straight BCS bowl game and has now won its last two after after outscoring Wisconsin 45-38 in last season's Rose Bowl. The Ducks improved to 11-15 in their bowl history.
Kansas State slipped to 6-10 in bowl games with its 5th straight bowl loss. That streak is now tied for second-longest in the nation with Minnesota, UTEP and Western Michigan. Only Ball State (6) has a longer current bowl skid.
Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein was among the three finalists invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation (won by Johnny Manzeil of Texas A&M). Klein became the first signal-caller from a BCS automatic-qualifying school in the BCS era to record 20 rushing touchdowns and 10 passing touchdown in two seasons and he is one of only four quarterbacks to accomplish the feat. But Oregon shut him down in this game as he managed just 31 yards rushing on 13 carries and 150 yards passing with two picks and one TD.
After digging an early 15-0 deficit, the Wildcats did manage to rally to within 15-10 in the 2nd quarter, but Oregon pushed it back to 24-10 by halftime on a Marcus Mariota 24-yard pass to Kenjon Barner. It was Barner's only reception of the game and his only touchdown, but he rushed for 143 yards on 31 carries.
After returning the opening kickoff for a score, Thomas also tallied Oregon's second touchdown on a 23-yard pass from Mariota that gave the Ducks a 15-0 lead. The Ducks converted a 2-point conversion after the first score and kicked the extra point following the second touchdown.
Oregon led 32-10 entering the fourth quarter as Kansas State was held to 97 total yards in the second half. The Wildcats' first three possessions of the third quarter netted 12 yards and ended in punts. A fourth drive that carried into the 4th quarter went 65 yards on 10 plays and closed the gap to 32-17 with 11 minutes still to go, but the Wildcats owned the football for only 6 plays the rest of the game.
The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com had only given Oregon a 0.75-point edge for the 4th-closest margin among this year's 35 bowl games.