Kansas State Football: Players Who Must Step Up in Fiesta Bowl vs. Oregon

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistDecember 24, 2012

Nov 12, 2011; Manhattan, KS, USA; Kansas State Wildcats defensive end Meshak Williams (42) waits for action to resume during a 53-50 four-overtime win over the Texas A&M Aggies at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

It's going to be a shootout when No. 5 Kansas State (11-1) meets No. 4 Oregon (11-1) in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on January 3.

From the coaching staff to the players that suit up, and everyone in between, anyone associated with the Kansas State football program must be at the top of his game if the Wildcats have any chance of beating the Ducks in what is arguably the best bowl game after the BCS National Championship.

While Oregon brings with it a pair of dynamic underclassmen in freshman QB Marcus Mariota and sophomore RB De'Anthony Thomas, it's the elder statesmen of the Kansas State squad that must step up and meet the challenge head on.

Who exactly?

Let's take a look.


Collin Klein, QB

While Collin Klein will forever be remembered as one of the best players to ever play at Kansas State, a win over Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl would take his legacy to another level.

After suffering what has been widely thought to be a concussion against Oklahoma State on November 3 (h/t Yahoo! Sports), Klein's senior season under center in Manhattan ended with a whimper.

Nov. 10 @TCU W 23-10 12 21 145 57.1 0 1 15 50 2
Nov. 17 @Baylor L 52-24 27 50 286 54 2 3 17 39 1
Dec. 1 Texas W 42-24 8 14 184 57.1 1 1 23 103 2
TOTALS 47 85 615 55.2 3 5 55 192 5

Numbers like that simply won't get the job done against Oregon.

Klein must make better decisions with the football and look to attack Oregon's pass defense, which ranks 62nd in the nation according to cfbstats.com.

Empty possessions in a shootout with Oregon will cost Kansas State the Fiesta Bowl.

Klein is the unquestioned leader of the Wildcats—he must raise the level of his game and inspire his teammates to follow suit.


Meshak Williams, DE

The most disruptive force on the Wildcats defense with 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss, senior defensive end Meshak Williams must be at the top of his game against Oregon.

Williams must hold the edge against a powerful Oregon offensive line, forcing the Ducks to keep the ball between the tackles and giving dual-threat QB Marcus Mariota second thoughts about leaving the comfort of the pocket.

Kansas State's most disruptive force on the defensive side of the ball, Williams' ability to shed blockers and blow things up in Oregon's backfield is a major key for the Wildcats against one of the most prolific offenses in the nation.


Arthur Brown, LB

If Kansas State has any chance of shutting down Oregon's explosive running attack, Arthur Brown must make his presence known early and often in the Fiesta Bowl.

A phenomenal athlete with great instincts, Brown must be up to the challenge of trying to contain Kenjon Balmer, De'Anthony Thomas and Marcus Mariota in the Ducks' explosive run game.

While Brown only had six tackles for loss in 2012, he was the Wildcats' leading tackler with 91 on the season. He must use his athleticism to close quickly on the ball-carrier, being careful to not get caught in a sea of blockers when Oregon bounces it outside or throws a short screen pass.

If Williams is able to hold the edge, it should slow the play down just enough for Brown to get there before Oregon can turn upfield.


Rick Weiner is a member of B/R's Breaking News Team.