Ross D. Franklin, Associated Press
GLENDALE, Ariz. — De'Anthony Thomas caught the opening kickoff, raced past Oregon's sideline and leaned his head into the end zone like a sprinter crossing the finish line.
The track meet had started and the fifth-ranked Ducks barely looked back after that.
Triggered by Thomas' 94-yard return, Oregon bolted by No. 7 Kansas State 35-17 Thursday night at the Fiesta Bowl in what may have been coach Chip Kelly's final game with the Ducks.
"I felt like my role in this game was to be a momentum-builder and a game-changer," Thomas said. "Once I saw that edge, I wanted to get to the end zone as fast as I could so I could celebrate with my teammates."
They did it a lot.
Teams that had that 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 execution-is-everything Wildcats.
With Kelly reportedly talking to several NFL teams, Oregon (12-1) was too much for Kansas State and its Heisman Trophy finalist, Collin Klein, turning the game into a try-to-keep up race from the start.
Thomas followed his before-everyone-sat-down kickoff return with a 23-yard touchdown catch, finishing with 195 total yards.
Kenjon Barner ran for 143 yards on 31 carries and scored on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota in the second quarter. 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.
Even Oregon's defense got into the act, intercepting Klein twice and holding him to 30 yards on 13 carries.
"We got beat by a better team tonight, combined by the fact that we let down from time to time," coach Bill Snyder said after Kansas State's fifth straight bowl loss.
Whether Kelly leaves Eugene or not, he had a good run, leading the Ducks to four straight trips to BCS bowls, the last two wins.
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."
Last year's Fiesta Bowl was an offensive fiesta, with Oklahoma State outlasting Stanford 41-38 in overtime.
The 2013 version was an upgrade: Nos. 4 and 5 in the BCS, two of the nation's best offenses, dynamic players and superbly successful coaches on both sides.
Oregon has become the standard for go-go-go football under Kelly, its fleet of Ducks making those shiny helmets — green like Christmas tree bulbs for the Fiesta Bowl — and flashy uniforms blur across the grassy landscape.
Their backfield of Thomas, Barner and Mariota made up a three-headed monster of momentum, each one capable of turning a single play into a scoring drive of 60 seconds or less.
Mariota has been the show-running leader, a question mark before the season who ably ran Oregon's high-octane offense as the first freshman quarterback to start for the Ducks since Danny O'Neil in 1991.
Oregon won the Rose Bowl for the first time in 95 years last season and was in position for a spot in the BCS title game this year before losing a heartbreaker to Stanford on Nov. 17.
- The Cougars and their coach's ’stache...
- Jennifer Hamson to lace it up for BYU one...
- Jimmer & Jimbo: As one pursues a steady role,...
- Injured Tyler Haws could play when BYU hosts...
- Hamson and Gray step up big to get BYU past...
- Presto! Utah Jazz pull a magical 2nd win out...
- Brad Rock: Utes now look at bowl pairing from...
- Lone Peak guard Frank Jackson drops...
- 4-star offensive line commit Kieffer... 68
- BYU football: Cougars in talks with... 60
- BYU defensive back transferring to Utah... 51
- Hamson and Gray step up big to get BYU... 45
- BYU sells close to 2,000 tickets for... 39
- Ute football team has boots on the... 33
- Dick Harmon: How a simple decision in... 32
- Dick Harmon: BYU guard Tyler Haws the... 31