K-State falls 35-17 to Oregon at Fiesta Bowl
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP)
He and the Wildcats just didn't have enough to keep up with the speedy Ducks.
Rocked by De'Anthony Thomas' 94-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff, No. 7 Kansas State never fully recovered and lost its fifth straight bowl game, 35-17 to No. 5 Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday night.
''They just made a lot of great plays, moved around, really flew to the football, executed better than we did,'' Klein said.
Teams that had national title aspirations end on the same day, Oregon and Kansas State ended up in the desert for a marquee matchup billed as a battle of styles: The fast-flying Ducks vs. the methodical Wildcats.
Oregon (12-1) had the edge early, going up 15-0 in the first quarter after Thomas' attention-grabbing return and 23-yard touchdown catch on a pass from Marcus Mariota.
Klein, K-State's Heisman Trophy finalist, brought the Wildcats back, scoring on a 6-yard touchdown run by scrambling and diving for the pylon early in the second quarter.
He led Kansas State (11-2) on another scoring drive that resulted in Anthony Cantele's 25-yard field goal to cut Oregon's lead to 15-10 and had the Wildcats moving again late in the second quarter.
That drive didn't turn out so well; Kansas State was called for a false-start penalty while trying to draw the Ducks offside and Cantele followed by missing a 40-yard field goal.
Oregon kicked its blink-and-you'll-miss-it offense into gear after that, moving 77 yards in 46 seconds for a 24-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to Kenjon Barner that made it 22-10 at halftime.
''At that moment in time, we felt as a team we had the momentum,'' Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown said.
Kansas State didn't put up much of a fight after that, unable to stop Oregon's offense or get much going when it had the ball.
Thomas finished with 195 total yards, Barner ran for 143 yards on 31 carries and Mariota later scored on a 2-yard run in the third quarter, capped by an obscure 1-point safety that went in the Ducks' favor.
The win was Oregon's second straight in a BCS bowl, which should be a nice send-off for coach Chip Kelly if he does leave Eugene to take one of the many NFL jobs he's reportedly in the mix for.
Ducks fans sure let him know how they felt, chanting ''We want Chip!'' just before he was handed the massive Fiesta Bowl trophy.
''Our focus was on this game tonight,'' Kelly said. ''If for some reason, someone wanted to talk to me, it's because of those players over there. We have an unbelievable team, an unbelievable program and any success is because of those guys.''
Oregon's defense, which has been maligned in the past, played a big role in the win, too.
The Ducks had a hard time corralling Klein in the first half, but closed in around him in the second half.
Oregon didn't let the dual-threat quarterback get his ground game going, holding him to 30 yards on 13 carries.
Klein threw for 151 yards on 17-of-32 passing and hit John Hubert on a 10-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, but that only cut Oregon's lead to 32-17. He also threw two interceptions, though one was a desperation heave toward the end zone on the final play of the first half.
''It's hard,'' Klein said. ''It's not the way any of us wanted to go out. That's the way it goes.
Kansas State had gone through its second revival under coach Bill Snyder, the studious coach who never lost touch with the game or players young enough to be his grandchildren during a three-year retirement.
The 73-year-old followed up the Manhattan Miracle by returning to lead the Wildcats back to national prominence.
Klein has led K-State's meticulous drive this season, a fifth-year senior who plays in the mold of the college version of Tim Tebow: Gritty, humble, finds a way to win, whatever it takes.
Similar to the Ducks, the Wildcats had their national title hopes stamped out on Nov. 17, blown out by Baylor with a rare letdown.
They closed out the regular season strong to win the Big 12 championship, but again couldn't back it up with a bowl win.
''We got beat by a better team tonight, combined by the fact that we let down from time to time,'' Snyder said.
Klein did his best and came up short, but he'll still go down as one of the greatest - and most popular players - in Kansas State history.