College football | Fiesta Bowl: Ducks hit top speed
Thomas’ opening kickoff return for touchdown sets fast pace as Oregon overwhelms Klein, Kansas State
Oregon defenders knock the ball away from Kansas State receiver Chris Harper in the second quarter.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — De’Anthony Thomas returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for the first of his two touchdowns, Marcus Mariota accounted for three scores and No. 5 Oregon raced past No. 7 Kansas State 35-17 in the Fiesta Bowl last night.
Oregon jumped to a 15-0 lead behind Thomas’ opening return and 23-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
Kansas State (11-2) tried to bull its way behind Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein, only to get overwhelmed by the speedy Ducks, who got some help with an obscure 1-point safety on a blocked extra-point kick.
Mariota added a 24-yard touchdown pass to Kenjon Barner in the second quarter and ran for a 2-yard score in the third to give Oregon (12-1) its second straight Bowl Championship Series bowl victory after defeating Wisconsin in last year’s Rose Bowl.
Klein threw two interceptions and had 30 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Oregon was awarded the odd safety midway through the third quarter after Mariota’s touchdown run. The Ducks sent kicker Alejandro Maldonado out to kick the extra point, but Kansas State’s Javonta Boyd blocked the kick and the ball ended up in the hands of teammate Chris Harper, who was tackled in the end zone.
After a review of the play, the officials awarded the Ducks a 1-point safety that put them up 32-10.
It was the first such 1-point safety in major-college football since Texas got one against Texas A&M in 2004, according to STATS LLC.
With Thomas’ return of the opening kickoff, it was the second straight night a BCS bowl began with a quick strike.
On the first play in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday, Louisville returned an interception for a touchdown against Florida.
Thomas offered the first flash of speed, crossing into the end zone like a sprinter taking the finish-line tape after picking up a couple of blocks and racing past Oregon’s bench for the score. The Ducks, as they are apt to do, went for the two-point conversion and converted on a trick play to go up 8-0 in the game’s first 12 seconds.
But after the Wildcats fell behind 15-0, Klein rallied them in the second quarter, scrambling for a 6-yard touchdown run. He kept the Wildcats moving, setting up Anthony Cantele for a 25-yard field goal that made it 15-10.
Late in the second quarter, though, Cantele missed a 40-yard field-goal try and Oregon got its quick-hit offense rolling again, moving 77 yards in 46 seconds. The touchdown pass from Mariota to Barner made it 22-10 just before halftime.