Glendale, AZ (Sports Network) - De'Anthony Thomas opened the Fiesta Bowl with a scintillating kickoff return and Marcus Mariota combined for three touchdowns, as Oregon controlled Kansas State, 35-17, to reach 12 wins for the third straight season.
Thursday's matchup at University of Phoenix Stadium was destined to take place in Miami, Fla. for the national championship after both programs rose to the top of the BCS standings in mid-November. But losses in their penultimate regular season games on the same day knocked them from their perch and out of the title picture.
Despite that late setback, Oregon reached its fourth consecutive BCS bowl game under the guidance of head coach Chip Kelly, whose name has been heavily rumored to be on the short lists of several open NFL positions.
Kelly watched his fifth-ranked Ducks (12-1) limit Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein and the seventh-ranked Wildcats to 23 points below their season average.
In addition to his 94-yard return 12 seconds in, Thomas caught a touchdown pass from Mariota, who threw for 166 yards and two TDs and ran for 62 yards and another score. Kenjon Barner caught a touchdown pass and gained 167 yards from scrimmage in the convincing victory.
Kansas State (11-2) dropped its fifth straight bowl game and was denied its first 12-win season. Klein was held to 151 passing yards with a touchdown and two interceptions on 17-of-32 attempts and gained just 30 yards on 13 carries.