By land and air, Kelly's Ducks are superior in Fiesta Bowl
GLENDALE, Ariz. - De'Anthony Thomas took the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown and Marcus Mariota accounted for three touchdowns Thursday to lead No. 4 Oregon to a 35-17 victory over No. 5 Kansas State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Mariota threw touchdown passes of 23 yards to halfback Thomas and 24 yards to halfback Kenjon Barner and also scored on a 2-yard run as the Ducks (12-1) reached 12 victories for the third time in four seasons in what could be Oregon coach Chip Kelly's last game.
Kelly reportedly will interview with the Buffalo Bills about their coaching vacancy today, and he also has been linked to open NFL jobs in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Oregon is 46-7 in Kelly's four seasons as coach.
Mariota, a redshirt freshman, completed 12 of 24 passes for 166 yards and had 62 yards rushing. Mariota finished the season with a 68.4 completion percentage, just short of Sam Bradford's NCAA freshman record of 69.5 percent set at Oklahoma in 2006.
Barner, a senior, rushed for 140 yards on 30 carries in his final game.
Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, scored on a 6-yard run and completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to John Hubert. Klein completed 17 of 32 passes for 150 yards and two interceptions. He had 30 yards rushing, and John Hubert had 55.
Oregon led 15-10 before scoring 17 straight points to take control, a run that included an unusual one-point safety. The Ducks were awarded a point when a Kansas State player carried the ball into the end zone attempting to advance it after the Wildcats blocked the PAT kick following Mariota's run with 8:03 remaining in the third quarter.
Oregon needed all of 12 seconds to introduce its speed to Kansas State in the first meeting between the two schools. The Ducks won the toss, and Thomas took it 94 yards for touchdown, untouched along the right sideline. Defensive end Dion Jordan took a deep snap in the spread formation and ran over left tackle for the two-point conversion. Jordan also had a two-point conversion reception in the Ducks' season opener.
Mariota completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Thomas with 3:46 left in the first quarter, and Alejandro Maldonado kicked the extra point for a 15-0 lead.
Klein, under pressure, scrambled out of the pocket and scored on 6-yard run around left end with 13:26 remaining in the second quarter to complete a 58-yard drive and make it 15-7.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Wildcats went 59 yards to set up Anthony Cantele's 25-yard field goal.
The Wildcats stopped Oregon on a fake punt on its next possession, but Cantele missed a 40-yard attempt and the Ducks took a 22-10 halftime lead on Mariota's 24-yard pass to Kenjon Barner with 14 seconds remaining. The Ducks went 77 yards in 46 seconds.
Maldonado added a 33-yard field goal on the Ducks' first drive of the third quarter to make it 25-10.
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Notes: Oregon played in its fourth consecutive BCS game, all four years Chip Kelly has been the coach. The Ducks joined USC (2003-09), Ohio State (2006-11) and Miami (2001-04) as the only schools to have played in four consecutive BCS games since the BCS format was established. ... Kansas State reached 11 victories for the seventh time in the last 16 seasons, all under coach Bill Snyder, who is in his second stint at the school after returning in 2009 following a three-year retirement. ... Carve four hours out of Nov. 17, and Oregon and Kansas State could have played in the BCS title game. The schools lost within four minutes of each other that day, when Baylor beat No. 1 Kansas State 52-24 and Stanford beat No. 2 Oregon 17-14 in overtime.