The anticipation before the Fiesta Bowl wasn’t what we saw with the Rose Bowls and the BCS National Championship, but by the time we remembered what it felt like to watch an Oregon Ducks football game, the excitement had returned in full force.
If the Ducks taught us anything on Jan. 3, it’s that there’s an apparent substantial difference between the No. 4 and the No. 5 teams in the country.
After a 35-17 victory over the Kansas State Wildcats, fans will believe they deserved a shot at a national title. There’s still unfinished business at the University of Oregon, but nobody can take away from the fact that the team from Eugene is the champion of the Fiesta Bowl.
Offensive Game Ball
On a day where it took Oregon’s offense a while to get rolling, no one player truly stepped up and made this game his own from start to finish. Kenjon Barner had a handful of big drives that helped boost his stats, but there were a number of occasions where he was stuffed up the middle.
To begin this game, it looked as if De’Anthony Thomas would be the go-to option on offense. He turned a simple bubble screen into a 23-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and getting him out in space looked to be the best plan of attack.
But as we’ve seen so many times, the Ducks went away from the Black Mamba, and Marcus Mariota showed just how versatile he can be.
The redshirt freshman quarterback didn’t have his best game from a statistical standpoint, but he showed the poise and composure that the Ducks needed in their biggest game of the season. He stayed in the pocket until his protection broke down, and when it did he showed just how slippery he can be under duress.
Marcus Mariota avoided costly mistakes, and if it weren’t for a couple of dropped passes, he would have been credited with the big bombs that could have blown this game wide open.
Defensive Game Ball
Like the offense, the Ducks’ defense put an overall team effort on display. Kiko Alonso was hitting hard all over the field, Brian Jackson had a huge stop on a deep pass and the team as a whole locked down and kept Kansas State from making the big play.
However, if one player stood out above all else, that player was Michael Clay.
Michael Clay had nine tackles—eight solo—and a sack in this one, but numbers aside, he helped the defensive unit shut down a Heisman candidate in Colin Klein. The Wildcats’ quarterback was unable to thrive as he did all season, and the Ducks took advantage in a game that was much less of a shootout than some expected.
Klein was the biggest threat to Oregon’s success, and Clay was a big reason that Ducks’ biggest fears never came to fruition.
Special Teams Game Ball
If anybody was worried about this game getting off to a slow start, De’Anthony Thomas put those concerns to rest on the contest’s opening kickoff.
Thomas caught the ball near the sidelines, but a lack of real estate was no hindrance in him finding success. He turned the ball up field, made the right cuts and 94 yards later he was celebrating in the end zone.
Following the play, the Ducks—in true Chip Kelly Fashion—surprised the K-State defense and successfully went for two.
- Marcus Mariota—12/24 166 YDS 2 TD
- Kenjon Barner—30 CAR 143 YDS 4.8 AVG 0 TD, 1 REC 24 YRDS 24 AVG 1 TD
- De’Anthony Thomas—4 REC 60 YRDS 15 AVG 1 TD