Fiesta Bowl gets prime matchup of Wildcats, Ducks

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 2, 2013 at 2:49 pm •  Published: January 2, 2013
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This is the Wildcats' 14th bowl appearance under Snyder and with a win over Oregon, they can finish with the first 12-win season in school history.

"Obviously, you can't help as a coach (but) admire what Coach Snyder has done," Kelly said. "He had an opportunity when he first got to K-State that he created a legacy that I don't think anybody could ever imagine when he first took over that program, what one man could do to a university. Retired for a couple years, then came back and is building upon that legacy.

"It's really a special story in college football that will (have him) go down, like I said, as one of the top coaches in the history of the game."

Snyder's quarterback has a pretty good story, too.

Lightly recruited and switched to receiver early in his college career, Klein had a superb first season as Kansas State's starter, throwing for 1,918 yards, rushing for 1,141 more and accounting for 40 touchdowns as a junior.

He became a bona fide star his final season in Manhattan.

A fifth-year senior, Klein earned the moniker Optimus Klein for his grittiness and ability to grind out victories any way he could, seemingly topping himself every game.

A sturdy 6-foot-5 and 226 pounds, Klein became the first quarterback in the BCS era to run for at least 20 TDs and throw for 10 in consecutive seasons, and broke the FBS record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in two seasons with 49.

He was a Heisman Trophy finalist, the Big 12 player of the year and won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.

Whatever happens Thursday night, Klein will leave the Little Apple as one of the greatest and most popular players in Kansas State history.

"He's very good, he runs that offense efficiently, he's a poised guy, appears to be a very smart football player," Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. "He knows what they want him to do in their game plan."

Many of those attributes could be used to describe Mariota, too.

The first freshman to start at Oregon since Danny O'Neil in 1991, he was considered one of the few question marks for the Ducks heading into this season.

Mariota answered them all and then some, showing poise beyond his years while leading a veteran, talent-laden team.

A bit more wiry than Klein at 6-foot-4, 211 pounds, Mariota is an athletic dual-threat quarterback who's a better passer, but can use his speed to break off long runs.

Mariota threw for 2,511 yards and 30 touchdowns, ran for 690 yards and four more scores, and cemented his place as Oregon's quarterback of the future.

"He does so many things from the skill standpoint, his quickness, his speed, ability to throw the ball accurately two out of three times," Snyder said. "He's gifted from a physical standpoint. I think as much as anything, the fact that for a very young person on the field playing in some very highly competitive environments, he seems to be a very, very poised young guy, doesn't seem to get ruffled."

Between the two star quarterbacks and all that talent on both sides of the ball, it should be a fun Fiesta Bowl.



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