Oregon came into tonight with an obvious game plan: jump out to an early leap and force K-State to throw from behind, forcing passes being the best way to neutralize the run game. So when the Ducks won the opening coin toss, they naturally opted to receive in hopes of being the first on the scoreboard. And that’s exactly what happened on the opening kickoff, when De’Anthony Thomas took Anthony Cantele’s kick back 94 yards for a touchdown. A gimmick play on the PAT left the Ducks up 8-0 with only 12 seconds off the clock.
It was the play that shouldn’t have happened. Oregon isn’t that great at kickoff returns. Cantele put the ball in perfect position, hugging the corner of the field. Put the coverage unit broke down, and that’s the hole K-State was left with. On the first series K-State threw three straight passes: incomplete, eight yards to Chris Harper, and a short 3rd down conversion to Lockett. The scheme Oregon showed is exactly what K-State has been looking for: although it was a called run, Klein audibled after seeing single coverage on the receivers with Oregon loading the box. On the next set K-State was stopped at fourth and one after throwing long on third and one and going incomplete. Klein was then stopped on his run out of the shotgun at the Oregon 40, turnover on downs.
Do not despair while reading this, as much time is still left to play. On Oregon’s first possession, a nice open-field tackle by Meshak Williams took QB Mariota down five behind the line. Another run stopped for a loss and an ineligible receiver put Oregon at 3-and-22. Tack on another false start, and it became 3-and-27. A 17 yard pass did damage to Thomas, but wasn’t nearly enough as K-State’s defense looked good early, forcing a punt.
On K-State’s subsequent possession, an argument exists for the team to abandon the run and starting passing. Oregon put five defensive linemen in, obviously looking to stop the rush at all costs. K-State recorded one first down on three runs, but more opportunities to exploit existed. A forced punt shortly thereafter gave Oregon the ball back at their 45.
Oregon then did exactly what it threatened to do. It used speed along the edge to move the ball methodically and ended with a short pass to De’Anthony Thomas that he took 23 yards for a touchdown, using a crucial block from the center a full 15 yards downfield.
Getting the ball back, Tyler Lockett provided another nice return to the 42, which was pulled back five yards with a delay of game. A pass interference call and long run by DeAngelo Pease worked the ball down to the 31, but saw OL Tavon Rooks carried off the field with an unknown injury. However, Pease picked up his second straight first down and K-State had the ball on the 18. Two option pitches to Pease put the ball in his hands a third and fourth straight time – surprising because he’d fallen largely out of favor recently and wasn’t getting that many touches. A Klein run up the middle has given the Wildcats a first down on the six yard line, and that’s where we leave the game to start the 2nd quarter.