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Ducks strike early to dominate Fiesta Bowl

Abbotsford's Boseko Lokombo of Oregon grabs onto John Hubert of Kansas State during the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday night in Glendale, Ariz. - Photograph by: Getty Images , -The Associated Press


Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas raced 94 yards for a touchdown on the opening kickoff.

The fifth-ranked Ducks barely looked back after that. Triggered by Thomas’s attention-grabbing return, Oregon raced past 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.

“Our focus was on this game tonight,” said Kelly. “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.”

Teams that had 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 versus 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. The Ducks tried to turn the game into a track meet and it worked 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 two-yard run in the third quarter, capped by an obscure one-point safety that went in the Ducks’ favour.

Even Oregon’s defence got into the act, intercepting Klein twice and holding him to 30 yards on 13 carries.

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