GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — DeAnthony Thomas returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown and scored on a 23-yard pass, helping No. 5 Oregon take an early 15-7 lead over No. 7 Kansas State at the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday night.
Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein scrambled for a TD run shortly into the second quarter to keep Kansas State close.
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.
Thomas offered the first flash of speed, crossing into the end zone like a sprinter taking the finish-line tape after picking up a couple of blocks and racing past Oregon's bench for a touchdown on the opening kickoff. The Ducks, are they are apt to do, went for 2 on the point-after and converted on a trick play to go up 8-0 in the game's first 12 seconds.
It was the second straight day a BCS bowl began with a quick strike. On the first play in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night, Louisville returned an interception for a touchdown against Florida.
Thomas hit the Wildcats again late in the first quarter, breaking a couple of tackles and dragging three Wildcats into the end zone for a catch-and-run TV that put the Ducks up 15-0.
It's nothing new for Oregon's sophomore sensation: He had touchdown runs of 91 and 64 yards in the 2012 Rose Bowl.
Kansas State had a hard time matching Oregon's quick-strike capabilities early.
The Wildcats turned the ball over on downs at the Oregon 39 on their first drive and had to punt after Klein was sacked by Oregon linebacker Michael Clay on the second.
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 Chip 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, Kenjon Barner and Marcus 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 octanated 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.
Whether Kelly leaves for the NFL or not, he had a good run, leading the Ducks to four straight trips to BCS bowls.
Kansas State had gone through its second revival under Bill Snyder, the studious coach who never lost touch with the game or players young enough to be his grandchildren during a three-year retirement.
The 73-year-old followed up the Manhattan Miracle by returning to lead the Wildcats back to national prominence with his attention-to-detail ways.
Klein has led K-State's meticulous march this season, a fifth-year senior who plays in the mold of the college version of Tim Tebow: Gritty, humble, finds a way to win, whatever it takes.
Like the Ducks, the Wildcats had their national-title hopes stamped out on Nov. 17, blown out by Baylor with a rare letdown on both sides of the ball.
Both ended up with a nice consolation prize, playing each other in one of the most anticipated games of the bowl season.