The expected (Oregon’s quick-strike, big-play weapons), the unexpected (Kansas State’s season-low point total) and the bizarre (rare one-point safety) summarized the 42nd Annual Fiesta Bowl. The No. 4 Ducks led the No. 5 Wildcats start to finish in their convincing 35-17 victory, a contest pitting two 11-1 teams that remained undefeated and in national title contention until mid-November.
The Ducks, appearing in their fourth consecutive BCS bowl game, never were seriously threatened. K-State fell 23 points and 54 total yards below its regular-season averages and the Wildcat defense, the national leader in turnover margin, failed to register a takeaway against the prolific Oregon offense.
Jet-quick Duck returner De’Anthony Thomas seized the moment in spectacular fashion when he flashed his sprinter speed to return the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. It was the first time in Fiesta Bowl history the opening kickoff was returned for a touchdown and the longest all-purpose play in Oregon bowl history.
Thomas struck again late in the first quarter when he caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Marcus Mariota to increase Oregon’s lead to 15-0.
Kansas State, its back to the wall, tallied 10 consecutive second-quarter points (six-yard touchdown run by quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein and a 25-yard Anthony Cantele field goal) to pull within 15-10 with halftime in sight and momentum on its mind.
But the Ducks doused KSU’s hopes with a five-play, 77-yard, hiccup-quick, 46-second drive that speedy running back Kenjon Barner capped with a 24-yard touchdown pass reception from Mariota 14 seconds before halftime.
Oregon iced the game’s outcome by tallying the first 10 points of the third quarter to pad its lead to 32-10. Alejandro Maldonado booted a 33-yard field goal to complete Oregon’s first second-half possession. Then after forcing K-State’s second punt of the third quarter, the Ducks marched 61 yards in seven plays, a drive Mariota began with a 32-yard dash, Oregon’s longest play from scrimmage, and completed with a two-yard touchdown plunge.
Mariota’s touchdown was followed by one of the most unusual plays in college football history — a one-point safety! Maldonado’s point-after-touchdown kick was blocked and caught in the field of play by K-State defender Ryan Mueller who retreated into the end zone before lateraling to teammate Allen Chapman who was tackled by Oregon lineman Jake Fisher. The one-point safety rule, implemented in 1988, only had been enforced one other time in FBS history.
K-State added a token touchdown — 10-yard pass from Klein to running back John Hubert — early in the fourth quarter, and Oregon completed the evening’s scoring with Maldonado’s second three-pointer, a 24-yarder.
Mariota accounted for 228 total yards and three touchdowns (166/2 passing, 62/1 rushing). Klein countered with 193 total yards and two touchdowns (151/1 passing, 42/1 rushing).
Barner led all rushers with 143 yards on 30 carries. K-State’s Chris Harper led all receivers with eight catches for 71 yards.
The Ducks departed Arizona with their third consecutive 12-win season. Mariota left town in possession of Oregon’s single-season records for total touchdowns (38) and pass completion percentage (68.5 percent).