Cats to meet Ducks in Fiesta Bowl

By Joshua Kinder

A matchup that was supposed to take place to start this season will become a reality at the end of the season as Kansas State and Oregon are set to clash in the Fiesta Bowl next month.

The fifth-ranked Wildcats earned the trip to Glendale, Ariz., with their 42-24 win over Texas on Saturday night to claim the Big 12 title, while the fourth-ranked Ducks were selected as an at-large choice from the Pac-12.

K-State and Oregon, which were sitting at No. 1 and No. 2 in the BCS standings just three weeks ago before both were upset the same night, were scheduled to play this season, but the game was nixed in a mutual agreement by both schools.

Now, it’s going to happen, in one of the best matchups this bowl season. It’ll be the Wildcats’ third visit to the Fiesta Bowl after playing in the game during the 2003 and the 1997 seasons. For the Ducks, the Jan. 3 game (7:30 p.m. on ESPN) at University of Phoenix Stadium will mark their fourth straight BCS bowl appearance.

“It’s extremely important for the program and very important for the wonderful people that support out program,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said Sunday night during a conference call. “Our program is about the people that have been Kansas State people for an extended period of time.

“Our young guys are excited about it, very enthused and appreciate the opportunity. It means a lot to them and it means a lot to the people of Kansas State.”

This game should also mean quite a lot to Wildcats’ senior receiver Chris Harper, who started his career as a quarterback at Oregon before transferring to K-State to play the last three seasons.

“It will certainly have some additional meaning for him,” Snyder said. “He has been very significant in our program and has grown immensely. It will have significant meaning for him.”

The matchup with the Ducks will pit two of the nation’s most dynamic offenses against each other. Oregon (11-1) features the No. 4 total offense in the country this season, averaging more than 50 points a game. The Wildcats (11-1) average more than 400 yards and 40 points per game, fives times scoring at least 50 points.

“It’s an amazing challenge,” Snyder said. “They’re an extremely talented and well-coached football team, collectively. Offensively, they go faster than the speed of light, and they do it with tremendous speed and a great deal of expertise and talent.”

Oregon coach Chip Kelly has been equally as impressed with the Wildcats.

“We’re really excited about the matchup with Kansas State,” Kelly said. “I got a chance to watch their game (Saturday) night, the first time I really got a chance to see them all season long and was extremely impressed with them in all phases — offensively, defensively and special teams.

“It’s a big challenge and we’re excited about it.”

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