MANHATTAN — When Kansas State officially accepted an invitation to play in the Fiesta Bowl on Sunday, Bill Snyder couldn’t help but reminisce about his previous trips to the bowl game.
He talked about the big crowds that followed the Wildcats to Arizona in 1997 for an exciting 35-18 victory over Syracuse, and a 35-28 loss to Ohio State in 2004. He mentioned the hospitality they received from Arizona natives and the memories everyone associated with the program gained from the trips. He’s happy to be going back on Jan. 3 for a 7:30 p.m. game against Oregon.
“We are quite honored to have the opportunity to participate again in the Fiesta Bowl,” Snyder said. “It will be our third time there. The previous times were tremendous experiences.”
Still, they might not properly prepare K-State for the upcoming game. The Fiesta Bowl is now played at state-of-the-art University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale instead of Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. And the opponent is No. 5 Oregon, which runs one of the fastest and most explosive offenses in all of college football. Much like the Wildcats, the Ducks fell one victory shy of playing in the BCS championship game.
But unlike the Wildcats, who haven’t played in a BCS bowl game since 2004, the Ducks are no strangers to the big stage. This will be Oregon’s fourth straight trip to a BCS bowl. It played in the Rose Bowl in 2010 and 2012 and the national title game in 2011.
“Oregon is an amazing football program and a wonderful team,” Snyder said.
The Ducks are known for their high-powered offense, which is putting up more than 550 yards per game behind quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back Kenjon Barner. Both players were considered Heisman Trophy contenders at points this season.
They routinely produce eye-popping stat lines and waste little time between plays. Spread offenses in the Big 12 such as Baylor, Texas Tech and West Virginia use similar systems, but not to the same degree.
“It’s an amazing challenge. They are an extremely talented and well-coached football team, collectively,” Snyder said. “Offensively, they go faster than the speed of light, and they do it with tremendous speed and a great deal of expertise and talent.”
Of course, K-State is no slouch on offense, either. It is averaging more than 410 yards per game and scored more than 40 points in seven games this season. The Fiesta Bowl will be a matchup of explosive, though different, offenses.
It will also be a unique matchup for K-State receiver Chris Harper, who started his college career as an Oregon quarterback.
“It will certainly have some additional meaning for him,” Snyder said. “… He has been very significant in our program and has grown immensely … I think it will have significant meaning for him.”
Oregon coach Chip Kelly watched K-State’s 42-24 win over Texas on Saturday, and was impressed with what he saw. He has always been a fan of Snyder’s, and he spoke highly of senior quarterback Collin Klein.
“We are very, very, very excited about playing against a really good Kansas State team,” Kelly said. “We look forward to the challenge of playing them.”