Thomas returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a score and Mariota totaled three touchdowns as the No. 5 Ducks rolled to a 35-17 victory over No. 7 Kansas State at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
Thomas' 94-yard kick return -- the longest in Oregon bowl history -- gave the Ducks a lead only 12 seconds into the game and they never trailed after that. Thomas tacked on a second touchdown later in the first quarter when Mariota hit him for a 23-yard score that gave Oregon a 15-0 lead.
Kansas State trimmed the Ducks' lead to 15-10 in the second quarter thanks to a 6-yard touchdown run by QB Collin Klein and a 25-yard Anthony Cantele field goal, but after that, Oregon went into hyper speed.
The Ducks scored on three straight drives spanning the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third quarter to put the game away. A 24-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to RB Kenjon Barner just 14 seconds before halftime seem to rejuvenate an Oregon offense that only scored once on its first four possessions.
Mariota then added another touchdown in the third quarter on a 2-yard run that put the Ducks up 32-10 and effectively put the game away. Mariota finished 12 of 24 for 166 yards and two touchdowns through the air and added 62 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Mariota was named the offensive player of the game.
Oregon's defense held Klein to 151 passing yards, his fourth-lowest total of the season. The Ducks also picked off the Kansas State quarterback twice, which marked only the second time this season Klein threw multiple picks in a game.
When the game turned: Trailing 25-10 in the third quarter, Kansas State took over on its own 42-yard line with a chance to cut into Oregon's lead. Instead, the Wildcats went three-and-out and sent the ball right back to the Ducks. Bad decision by K-State. On the ensuing possession, Oregon drove 61 yards for a touchdown that put the Ducks up 31-10. Oregon then went up 32-10 on a one-point safety. If you've never seen a one-point safety, watch the GIF above. If you've never seen a ref make a one-point safety ruling, watch the video below.
Highlight moments: The one-point safety. It's tough to explain. The video and GIF are above... Mariota made a big play with his legs on Oregon's first touchdown drive of the second half. On first down from the Ducks 39, Mariota sprinted 32 yards to the KSU 29-yard line to give Oregon great field position. The Ducks scored six plays later... When Oregon needed a quick touchdown just before halftime, the Ducks went to TE Colt Lyerla. Mariota hit Lyerla twice for 40 yards on a drive that lasted only 46 seconds and ended with the touchdown pass to Barner.
Significance of Oregon's victory: The Ducks 18-point win didn't do anything to diminish Kelly's NFL value, which means the Oregon coach could be headed for greener pastures. If Kelly goes, it's impossible to say if the Ducks can sustain the success they've had in his four seasons as coach. Oregon has made it to four BCS bowls (2-2) -- including the 2010 national championship game -- and won 12 games three times. There's no doubt that this was a big win for the program, but the loss of Kelly could overshadow that.
Significance of Kansas State's loss: The Wildcats have nothing to hang their heads over following Thursday's loss to Oregon. The fact that Kansas State even played in a BCS game was a mild victory. The Wildcats were picked to finish sixth in the Big 12 preseason media poll and its safe to say no one outside of Manhattan, Kan., thought this team would be playing in a January bowl game.
- Oregon RB Kenjon Barner: 143 rushing yards on 30 carries; one catch for 24 yards and a touchdown.
- Oregon KR De'Anthony Thomas: 120 yards and a touchdown on two kick returns; four catches for a team-high 60 yards and a touchdown; two carries for 15 yards.
- Oregon TE Colt Lyerla: Three catches for 52 yards.
- Kansas State WR Chris Harper: Eight catches for a team-high 71 yards.
- Kansas State KR Tyler Lockett: Five kick returns for 155 yards (31.0 yards per return).
What they said:
- Oregon coach Chip Kelly on his future: "I want to get it wrapped up quickly and figure out where I'll be."
- Chip Kelly on the one-point safety: "When they told me they were going to give us one point, I said, 'We'll take it.'"
- Kansas State coach Bill Snyder on Oregon: "We got beat by a better team tonight."
Numbers you should know: 38. Oregon led 22-10 at the half and with the win, the Ducks are now 38-0 under Kelly when leading at the half... 14. Barner crossed the 100-yard mark for the 14th time in his Oregon career, tied with Jonathan Stewart for the second most in school history... 23.4. Thomas touched the ball eight times in the game and totaled 195 yards for a 23.4 yard per-touch average. In two career BCS games, Thomas has 19 touches for 509 yards (26.8 yards per touch).
(For more on the Fiesta Bowl, check out our Eye on Football Blog here)