Fiesta Bowl 2013: Bill Snyder's Red-Zone Play-Calling Was the Difference-Maker

Lisa HornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterJanuary 4, 2013

The postgame handshake said it all. 

After the Oregon Ducks dismantled the Kansas State Wildcats 35-17 in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl, Ducks head coach Chip Kelly and Wildcats head coach Bill Snyder met at the middle of the field and shared a private moment. 

The audio was missing and we may never know what words were exchanged, but the image will burn in our memories forever—an old=school legend was passing on the torch to the new trendy kid. 

Chip Kelly's masterful play-calling incorporating speed and finesse destroyed power football in four quarters. Snyder had no answers for Kelly's no-huddle, spread attack. It was like watching the teacher get taught. Scratch that.

It was like watching a hungry cat toy with its prey for three hours before finally getting bored and putting it out of its misery.

The difference between Kansas State and Oregon wasn't too hard to discern—Kansas State had well-disciplined, well-coached athletes while Oregon had superior athletes who felt invincible. It wasn't a fair matchup, despite the close 22-10 halftime score. 

You knew what was coming in the second half—Kelly would take his high-octane offense and dial it up with NASCAR's Sunoco Green E-15 fuel. Unfortunately for Kansas State, the Ducks defense showed up at the exact same time as Kansas State's predictable play-calling showed up. 

Collin Klein scored the first touchdown for the Kansas State Wildcats early in the second quarter—he scampered into the end zone on a six-yard run to make the score 15-7 in favor of Oregon. But Klein could never play catch-up with Oregon, not with the predictable play-calling by Snyder. 

When Oregon went three-and-out in the next series, Jackson Rice punted the ball back to Kansas State's Tramaine Thompson and the Wildcats were back in business at their own 33-yard line. After a 13-play drive that took over six minutes, Kansas State had to settle for an Anthony Cantele 25-yard field goal that only gave Oregon a five-point lead late in the second half. It was deflating. 

What went wrong?

Inside the Ducks' 5-yard line, conservative play-calling by Snyder cost Kansas State the game. With a 1st-and-goal at Oregon's 4-yard line, John Hubert could only rush for one yard. On 2nd-and-goal, Collin Klein was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. 

No corner fade, no play-action pass was called. We all knew what was coming—another rushing play by either Klein or Hubert. On 3rd-and-goal, Hubert was was drilled for a five-yard loss, which forced a field-goal attempt by Anthony Cantele. 

It wasn't just the play-calling that hurt the Wildcats—it was the lack of preparedness against that no-huddle, fast attack that took Kansas State out of the game. With one minute left before halftime, Oregon put Kansas State on its heels by scoring a touchdown in five plays with time still left on the clock.

We've seen this before, and ostensibly Kansas State had seen it as well on game film, but the Wildcats looked confused and unprepared for the Ducks' 46-second onslaught. The Ducks took a 22-10 lead at halftime, and while Kansas State was regrouping in the locker room, Kelly was ceremoniously preparing a can of whoop to unleash with his players.

Bill Snyder is a college football legend and demands respect—no one coaches up talent better than Snyder. But Kelly's roster is one of damning speed, relentless endurance and a feeling of invincibility. It's hard to compete against that, much less beat it. 

Oregon's one loss this season—in overtime to Stanford—should be treated with the same reverence as Alabama's 9-6 loss to LSU last year. It was an anomaly.

Kansas State, on the other hand, plowed through the year with consistent offense and defense but had a cathartic moment against Baylor, losing 52-24 on November 17. 

Speed kills.

And so does not keeping up with the Joneses.

Or in this case, the Kellys.