Friday, January 4, 2013


Well, now that the dust has settled, the Ducks have convincingly won the Fiesta Bowl, 35-17.

First, my gripes.  I'm generally not one to gripe about officiating, but the officials blew several rather obvious calls early in the game, including two terribly late out-of-bounds tackles.  It's impossible to know how much difference that kind of thing can make, but an extra 30 yards and some significant momentum is a heckuva boost in the early stages of a game.  Those were just plain blown.  Then, with about 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Barner took a left sweep and slid to a halt, allowing the clock to keep running.  The only problem is that he clearly went out of bounds before beginning the slide, but they signaled for the clock to keep running.  Another blown call.  I saw several instances of Oregon holding early on that didn't get called, too.  I give the refs a C- on this one.  For what it's worth (which isn't much).

Now, for the game itself.  As I mentioned before, the key was which team would force the other out of its preferred style of play.  Aside from the opening kick-off return, K-State actually did the better job of it in the first half.  The game was slow, they moved the ball well and won the time of possession battle, and they more or less shut down the potent Ducks offense by controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.  But...they missed a couple of opportunities to put points on the board at the end of those drives.  That was killer, especially in a game where every point was absolutely critical.  Even so, being down by only 5 points at the end of the first half would have played directly into K-State's strength and I think would have led to a whole lot of confidence in the second half.  Even with that last Oregon scoring drive right before halftime that put the Ducks up by 12, it still felt like it was anyone's game.

However, the Ducks came out in the second half, grabbed the momentum early, and never let go.  Their lines -- both offense and defense -- controlled the line of scrimmage, especially in smothering Klein's ability to run.  I give the K-State defense all the credit in the world for holding that lethal offense to just 35 points on the night - there was a tipping point midway through the third quarter where it seemed like Oregon was on the verge of blowing the game wide open, but the Cats' defense continued battling and kept things relatively under control.  Unfortunately, the Wildcat offense was inept at that point in the game, and by the time it got something going again it was too little too late.  The Ducks outplayed them throughout the second half, and the tiny thread of hope that remained was really not even that.

K-State made a number of uncharacteristic mistakes, especially in regard to stupid, stupid penalties.  Several false starts provided self-inflicted wounds on drives that couldn't afford mistakes.  Missed field goals were huge, and the fact that they were going for field goals rather than touchdowns was even bigger.  They didn't seem to have a sense of urgency about them until midway through the 4th quarter, at which time it was too late even if they had been able to score at will.  I was surprised at the lack of big plays - I would have bet money that Snyder would have found at least a few loopholes in the Oregon scheme that could have been exploited at key times, but it didn't seem like anything worked out.

All in all, the self-inflicted mistakes and offensive struggles were too significant to overcome against such a tremendously talented Oregon team.  There were no turnovers in K-State's favor to help balance the speed scales, and the Ducks owned the second half.  Congrats, Oregon, you've earned your win!

While it was a tremendously disappointing finish to the year, let's keep things in perspective: K-State was projected in the preseason to be 6th in the league but ended up winning it, with an 11-1 regular season record.  They saw a #1 ranking, had a Heisman finalist, landed themselves in a BCS game, and will likely finish with a top-10 ranking.  They followed up last year's explosion onto the national scene with an even better year.  What's not to love?  It was a GREAT year, and one that -- after the sting of tonight wears off -- we should all be proud of.  Well done, Wildcats, well done.  We'll see you next year!

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