GLENDALE, Ariz. — For the first 29 minutes of No. 7 Kansas State’s 35-17 Fiesta Bowl loss to No. 5 Oregon on Thursday night, the Wildcats’ defense seemed to be doing exactly what it needed to against the Ducks’ high-flying, highly touted “blur” offense.
By TONY ADAME
The Wichita Eagle
The Wildcats made open-field tackles. They controlled the line of scrimmage. They even were able to fluster Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota, something teams haven’t been able to do all year.
For the first 29 minutes, they did all of those things.
It was the last minute of the first half that got them.
A missed field-goal attempt by K-State’s Anthony Cantele gave Oregon the ball back at its own 23. The Ducks kicked into high gear with a drive that showcased three offensive players who constantly create NFL buzz — redshirt freshman Mariota, senior running back Kenjon Barner and sophomore tight end Colt Lyerla — and the play-calling skills that have made coach Chip Kelly such a hot commodity for NFL teams.
Oregon scored in less than a minute — the Ducks’ 24th scoring drive of under 60 seconds this season — for a 22-10 halftime lead.
First, Mariota hit Lyerla on an underneath route, and he quickly got away from K-State linebackers for a 23-yard gain.
Then a 13-yard run by Barner, an All-American, for another first down into K-State territory.
Mariota threw an incomplete pass and then returned to Lyerla, again underneath, and again getting yards after the catch.
At the K-State 24, Mariota threw a schoolyard-style floater to Barner for a touchdown down the sideline, the two Oregon stars finding the empty spaces in the K-State defense for a score.
Five plays, 77 yards, 46 seconds and a 22-10 lead headed into halftime.
And all before the Wildcats even had a chance to catch their breath.
It was the result of an offense created from one of football’s most talented offensive minds out of necessity, when Kelly was an offensive coordinator at New Hampshire during 1999-2006.
“We were running out of fullbacks, either because they got hurt or we couldn’t recruit them,” Kelly said earlier in the week. “So I had to figure out a way to have an offense with no fullbacks.
“Who wants to play fullback anyway? When you recruit the kid, do you tell them ‘You’re 6-2 now, but you’ll be 5-10 by the time you’re done.’ Good luck with that.”