Oregon vs. Kansas State: Big Game Makes De'Anthony Thomas 2013 Heisman Contender

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2013

Jan. 3, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA; Oregon Ducks running back De'Anthony Thomas (6) runs up field during the first half against the Kansas State Wildcats during the Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

De'Anthony Thomas has put the nation on notice: He's going to have something to say about who walks away with the Heisman Trophy in 2013.

Thomas, Oregon's sophomore running back, was on some Heisman watch lists early this season, but as the regular season progressed and his backfield-mate Kenjon Barner got the bulk of the carries for Oregon, Thomas' candidacy all but disappeared.

But, Thursday night, he reminded everyone why he is one of the most explosive players in the nation with his performance in the Ducks' 35-17 victory over the Kansas State Wildcats in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

Thomas made his presence felt early, returning the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown.

As ESPN's Stuart Scott was quick to point out on Twitter, Thomas took the Wildcats to school on that return:

Dear Kansas St Football Men,In Case you didn't understand "speed" in your physics class.....Sincerely,De'Anthony ThomasOregon

— Stuart Scott (@StuartScott) January 4, 2013

But speed is only one part of Thomas' game.

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota also connected with Thomas on a 23-yard touchdown pass with just under four minutes to go in the first half, a score that saw the sophomore show off his strength and determination as he carried three Kansas State defenders over the goal line.

By the time the first half had come to an end, Thomas had put up some gaudy statistics, courtesy of ESPN's Numbers Never Lie on Twitter:

De'Anthony Thomas amassed 147 all-purpose yards on ONLY 4 TOUCHES in the 1st half. That's an avg of 36.75 yds per touch. #FiestaBowl

— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) January 4, 2013

For a guy who's only 5'9" and weighs 173 lbs, that's pretty darn impressive.

Thomas finished the Fiesta Bowl with two carries for 15 yards, four receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown, and two kick returns for 120 yards and that electrifying score.

That's 195 total yards on only nine touches, an average of more than 21 yards per touch.

That's a ridiculous number.

Not only was his performance impressive, it was record-setting, as pointed out on Twitter by Oregon's assistant athletic director, Andy McNamara:

De'Anthony Thomas now Oregon's career record-holder for all-purpose yards in bowl games with 482 (17 touches) #GoDucks #FiestaBowl

— Andy McNamara (@McNamaraUO) January 4, 2013

With as many different ways as Thomas can impact the game—and considering that Barner is graduating to the NFL—Thomas is going to become even more of a focal point for the Ducks offense in 2013.

That's great news for Oregon and its fans—and even better news for his Heisman candidacy.