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Oregon defense does the job, again

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: MEG WILLIAMS - Oregon fans at University of Phoenix Stadium savor the 35-17 Fiesta Bowl victory over Kansas State with Oregon linebacker Michael Clay, who was named the game's top defensive player.GLENDALE, Ariz. — The precise and explosive Oregon Ducks offense usually overshadows the work of defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti's group.

But the defense proved its worth again in the Fiesta Bowl, as it held Kansas State to one touchdown Thursday night while the game was up for grabs.

That allowed the Ducks' offense, led by quarterback Marcus Mariota, to catch fire and put away the Wildcats in a 35-17 win at University of Phoenix Stadium.

"We came out and dominated on defense," Oregon safety Brian Jackson said.

The Wildcats had closed to within 15-7 on Collin Klein's 6-yard touchdown run. The quarterback scramble culminated a 12-play drive that took 5 minutes, 12 seconds in the second quarter — and was aided by a third-down pass interference penalty by Oregon's Terrance Mitchell.

The Wildcats got the ball back and drove downfield, making it to the UO 4 after Klein's 21-yard connection with Chris Harper. But three consecutive run stops forced a Anthony Cantele field goal, after 6:36 of possession time.

After K-State foiled Jackson Rice's fake punt run, the Wildcats moved into scoring position again, with Klein hitting on passes. Angelo Pease's halfback pass was broken up at the goal line by Jackson, and a Wildcat false-start penalty turned a fourth-and-1 into a fourth-and-6. When Cantele's 40-yard field-goal attempt went wide left, the Ducks had stifled some tangible K-State momentum.

Oregon quickly scored — in 46 seconds — on Kenjon Barner's 24-yard pass from Mariota to lead 22-10 at halftime.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon Ducks linebacker Boseko Lokombo tackles Kansas State running back John Hubert in the second half of the Fiesta Bowl.The Oregon defense allowed only one first down on the first three K-State possessions of the second half, and the UO offense used its fast pace to score more points on Mariota's short TD run and Alejandro Maldonado's 33-yard field goal.

The score went to 32-10, and the UO defense had done its job, again. Kansas State's run game, including the threat of Klein, had been stuffed and the pass game neutralized. Ball game.

"What they wanted to do didn't work well," Jackson said. "They were trying to attack us on the outside, and they weren't prepared for what we had coming for them. We were disguising well, trying to confuse the quarterback.

"We played incredible on defense. We did exactly what we wanted to do. We had been studying so long; it was finally time to play. It was almost exactly like practice, except it was a really big practice field. ... I was just waiting for the offense to start clicking. It takes time to get into the groove. It was just like surgery, with Marcus was slicing and dicing, picking them apart."

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: MEG WILLIAMS - Oregon safety Erick Dargan (4) leaps with linebacker Boseko Lokombo after making an interception in the Fiesta Bowl.Kansas State lacked a quick-strike offense, and it took the Wildcats another 5:00 to score in the fourth quarter (on John Hubert's 10-yard pass from Klein), a drive that made the score respectable.

Said Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu: "We don't think a team can drive 80 yards consistently throughout the game."

The Wildcats could not control the game with their run; they gained 132 yards on 37 carries. Klein had 30 yards on 13 carries. Klein was forced to try to beat the Ducks through their air, and he had some success, going 17 of 32 for 151 yards, with former Duck Chris Harper catching eight balls for 71 yards.

"If a team runs the ball on you, it's never good," linebacker Kiko Alonso said. "We wanted to disrupt them, get penetration and stop them. We knew our offense was going to score points. We hold a team to 17 points, we expect to win."

Klein broke containment at times, but did little on designed runs.

"There was nothing there," Ducks defensive tackle Isaac Remington said. "We wanted to clog it up and not give him any running lanes. He got us a couple times on the pass, but that was our plan to stop him."

Said Klein: "(The D-line) just made a lot of great plays, moved around, really flew to the football, executed better than we did."by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: MEG WILLIAMS - Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein hangs his head during the postgame press conference at the Fiesta Bowl.