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Kansas State draws Oregon for Fiesta Bowl

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

The Kansas State Wildcats are headed back to the Valley of the Sun and they had better prepared to play at the speed of light.

The No. 7-ranked Wildcats, who clinched the Big 12's automatic BCS bowl berth the night before with a 42-24 victory against Texas, learned officially Sunday night they will face No. 5 Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3 in Glendale, Ariz.

The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. (central) in University of Phoenix Stadium and be televised by ESPN.

Oregon, 11-1 and ranked fourth in the final BCS standing -- K-State finished fifth -- features a high-powered, warp-speed attack that rivals any the Wildcats see in a Big 12 conference loaded with similar offensive schemes.

"It's a positive thing in that respect," K-State coach Bill Snyder said of his team's familiarity with Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and West Virginia among other fast-paced Big 12 teams. "Oregon, I believe -- and I'm not that well versed on their program right now -- I think are probably a little faster than the operation time in our conference.

"With the fast offensive football teams are somewhere in the vicinity of 17 and 18 seconds between snaps and I think Oregon operates faster than that. So it will be an additional challenge beyond what we've faced so far."

While a lot of the high-speed offenses do their damage through the air, Oregon ranks third nationally in rushing with 323.3 yards a game. The Ducks, who also are fourth in total offense at 550.1 yards, are led by running back Kenjon Barner with 1,624 yards and 21 touchdowns.

This will be the third Fiesta Bowl for K-State (11-1), the second in the BCS era. They beat Syracuse, 35-18, in 1997 and lost 35-28 to Ohio State on Jan. 2, 2004 after winning the 2003 Big 12 championship.

Oregon, which did not win the Pac-12 but was the first at-large team picked, is making its fourth straight BCS appearance. The Ducks played for a national title in the same stadium two years ago, losing 22-19 to Auburn.

K-State and Oregon appeared to be on track to meet in the national championship game two weeks ago before suffering upset losses on the same day -- the Wildcats to Baylor, the Ducks to Stanford. They also were scheduled to meet this regular season but it was scrapped when the Big 12 added a league game under its new 10-team configuration.

The game will feature two national marquee player in Oregon's Barner and K-State quarterback Collin Klein, a Heisman Trophy candidate.

"I did get a chance to watch last night and was just impressed with him," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said of Klein, who passed for 184 yards and rushed for 103 in the victory over Texas. "I think he's got a great feel for the game, I'm really impressed with him throwing the ball, he's as tough as they come.

"He's just one of those guys you can see that their team rallies around him and he's a real leader of that K-State team."

Klein said he looks forward to closing out his college career against the Ducks.

"It is a true blessing to be able to play our final game of the year and my final college game in the Fiesta Bowl," he said. "The goal all along was to lead this team to a conference championship and a BCS bowl game, and with the unity we showed throughout the season we were able to accomplish that.

"Oregon is certainly going to be a tough matchup, but we are looking forward to the challenge they present."

K-State is making its third straight bowl appearance in Snyder's fourth season back after retiring for three years. The Wildcats have dropped five straight bowl games - the 2003 Fiesta, the 2006 Texas Bowl under Ron Prince, the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl and last year's Cotton Bowl.

K-State officials announced that they have acquired a total of 21,500 seats for the game, 4,000 more than the allotted amount and that all fans who placed pre-orders will receive the number of tickets they requested.

Fans who did not pre-order through K-State can purchase tickets directly through the Fiesta Bowl at www.fiestabowl.org, or by calling 800-635-5748. A student ticket allotment of 1,000 reserved lower level tickets is available at $105 each.

"We're quite honored to have the opportunity participate again in the Fiesta Bowl," Snyder said.

"It will be our third time there and the previous times were tremendous experiences."