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2013 Fiesta Bowl reaction: The Oregon surge and that fleeting feeling

Oregon outbursts one more time, De'Anthony Thomas is really fast, and the Ducks eventually take control.

Ezra Shaw

0.868. Chip Kelly's win percentage in four years as Oregon's head coach. Before Kelly, Oregon had managed four 10-win seasons in its history; the Ducks did it four times in four years under him. Before Kelly, Oregon had attended four BCS bowls; the Ducks did it four times in four years under him. He has taken an interesting, high-quality program and made it elite. Now we wait and see whether he comes back or a fifth year, or whether he takes his show to the NFL.

2. Touchdowns scored by Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas within his first five touches. In my Fiesta Bowl preview, I said there were few players in the country with the speed necessary to puncture K-State, but that Thomas was one of them. He certainly showed it when he returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown (it was the second straight BCS bowl that saw a touchdown scored in its first 15 seconds), and he showed it again when he burst ahead for a 23-yard touchdown on a screen pass.

The scores gave Oregon a 15-0 lead, and while Kansas State would peck away at the lead for the rest of the first half, the burst gave the Ducks some time to find their way offensively. They eventually did. They always do.

The Oregon fan reaction || K-State fans react

4. Tackles for loss made by Oregon linebackers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso. They did their best work early. Alonso led the charge to stuff KSU quarterback Collin Klein on fourth-and-1 on the Wildcats' first possession, Clay sacked Klein on third-and-8 to force a punt on the second drive, and then Clay wrangled up KSU running back John Hubert for a loss on third-and-goal from the 3 midway through the second quarter. Kansas State dictated the tempo in the first half (despite Oregon's early lead), but Clay and Alonso were the primary reasons why KSU was held to 10 points while doing so.

8.9. Yards per completion for Collin Klein. KSU just wasn't able to get open downfield against the speedy Oregon secondary, and while the Wildcats have always been based more in efficiency than explosiveness, the efficiency was short-lived, as well. Klein struggled early, completing just two of his first seven passes for 20 yards, but he caught fire in the second quarter, completing nine of his next 10 passes. But only one of those completions went for more than 14 yards, and only four went for more than six. Then, not including his Hail Mary interception at the end of the first half, Klein completed just six of his last 14 passes for 47 yards.

KSU had no choice but to attempt to grind out long scoring drives. But while that typically hasn't been a problem for the Wildcats, the Wildcats typically don't have to face Oregon's defense, which is still one of the most underrated units in the country. The run game was typically only good for three or four yards at a time (Klein averaged 3.3 yards in 12 non-sack carries, Hubert averaged 3.2, and Angelo Pease 6.7 in seven carries), and Klein could typically only find receivers on screens and comeback routes. Big-play guys Chris Harper and Tyler Lockett combined to average just 5.6 yards per target (19 targets, 12 catches, 106 yards).

Eventually, KSU drives stalled. The Wildcats crossed Oregon's 40-yard line five times, but they scored just two touchdowns, settled for two field goals (they made one and missed one), and turned the ball over on downs once. They averaged 3.4 yards per trip into scoring position, and that didn't cut it against an Oregon offense that made more trips inside KSU's 40 (seven) and averaged more points per trip (3.9).

70. Plays attempted by both teams. Despite the early hole, KSU controlled the tempo early in the game. The Wildcats worked the clock, lined up at the line of scrimmage, made all sorts of pre-snap adjustments, worked the clock a little more, then snapped the ball. They failed to score in their first two possessions but still ate up six minutes with just 13 plays. Their first scoring drive went 10 plays and over five minutes. Their second scoring drive went 13 plays and almost seven minutes.

At the end of the first half, KSU had attempted 45 plays to Oregon's 24, and it looked for a while that they might go into the half either with the lead or down just 15-13. But their final real drive of the half stalled in the red zone, Anthony Cantele missed a 40-yard field goal, Oregon drove 77 yards in just five plays to score with 14 seconds left in the half, and that was, we later learned, the ball game, not only because of the points but because of the control. Oregon would dominate the clock (and the play count) in the second half as much as KSU had in the first.

152. Yards gained by Oregon in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Oregon's offense scored just once on its first four drives of the game; the Ducks had ceded control of the line of scrimmage to KSU for the most part, and after a misguided fake punt (an option to punter Jackson Rice, basically) failed, it really did look like KSU had taken complete control of the game. But what has made Oregon's offense so special under Kelly is The Surge™. It's not that the Ducks are always explosive or always "on" (though to be sure, they sometimes do have games like that); it's that they successfully tread water until they find an advantage to exploit, then exploit the living hell out of it. They have patented the, "score a touchdown, force a punt, score another touchdown, then pick off a pass for a touchdown," explosion, and while KSU avoided the deadly turnover, the Wildcats still couldn't stop the surge from happening.

It started, of course, with the score to end the first half. Including that final minute of the second quarter, Oregon gained 59 percent of its yards (229 of 385) and scored 49 percent of its points (17 of 35) in an 11-minute span from 1:00 left in the second quarter to 5:00 left in the third. The Ducks gained 152 yards in 22 plays to start the second half while allowing 11 yards in 10 to KSU. The lead went from 15-10 (with KSU driving) to 32-10. In Kelly's 46 wins at Oregon, The Surge has played a prominent role in, basically, all of them. And it eventually did in probably the most well-coached team in the country in Kansas State.

This really was college football at its best: tactical, skilled, flawed and interesting. It was also, as mentioned in the preview, fleeting. College football always is.

Collin Klein won 21 games in two seasons as the Wildcats' starting quarterback, but his final performance was mostly inefficient, his final pass an interception. Most of the players who crafted KSU's incredible identity in 2011-12 -- Klein, Harper, Pease, linebacker Arthur Brown, end Meshak Williams, corners Nigel Malone and Allen Chapman -- depart with just their fifth loss in two years.

Meanwhile, plenty of members of Oregon's most successful class of seniors ever (Kenjon Barner, linebackers Alonso and Clay, end Dion Jordan, injured lineman Carson York) depart with 46 wins and no national title. And, of course, Chip Kelly is all but expected to leave Eugene as well.

College football is at once redeeming and disappointing. It is also perpetual. It will go on in 2013, no matter who is playing and who is coaching.

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