Like he did at the Rose Bowl on January 2nd, all-purpose back De’Anthony Thomas once again has the opportunity to end his football season with a bang – this time against the No. 5 ( 11-1 ) Wildcats of Kansas State.
Against Wisconsin in the Arroyo Seco of Pasadena, Thomas only needed two carries for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns to put his stamp of excellence on last years Rose Bowl as the Ducks outlasted Wisconsin 45-38.
Is it likely he’ll do it again? There’s no question about it.
Thomas faces a Kansas State defense that without a doubt hasn’t faced a team as fast as Oregon, and a player as lightening fast as DAT with the ability to reach the edge quickly – and the end zone just as quick.
The Wildcats rank 43rd nationally in total defense and 24th nationally in scoring defense giving up an average of 21 points per game.
On defense, Kansas State is led by senior defensive end ( 6’3 – 245 ) Meshak Williams who’s skills as a pass rusher are among the nations best. In 2012, Williams has accumulated 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.
Williams certainly has the pedigree to play in the NFL and he’s certainly shown signs of brilliance in his senior season, however he’ll no doubt have to be at his very best to slow DAT and this Oregon offense down.
Consider this. In the Wildcats lone loss to a very mediocre ( 5 – 5 ) Baylor team just a month ago, Kansas State allowed 580 total yards and gave up 52 points. The Wildcats allowed 238 passing yards and more importantly, 342 rushing yards.
On the season, Oregon is averaging 323 rush yards per game ( 3rd nationally ) and 227 passing yards per game ( 67th nationally ).
Will DAT be able to find a hole, or the edge in this KSU defense? Like the Rose Bowl, it’s just a matter of time, patience,….and speed!
“A lot of people say speed kills, and we got a lot of speed on this team,” Thomas said this week. “We’re ready to just dominate.”
While both teams have more than a month to prepare for one another, Kansas State has yet to see a team, or a player with the speed of the Ducks and Thomas. Oklahoma might be the closest, and yet KSU only beat the Sooners by 5 points 24-19. In that game, the Sooners committed 3 turnovers and outgained the Wildcats in total yards 386 to 362.
The Ducks on the other hand, have faced several up-tempo offenses with exceptional duel threat quarterbacks like Collin Klein.
Facing Kansas State and their Heisman candidate quarterback will most certainly be a challenge for the Oregon defense, however the Ducks speed in the secondary and in the linebacking corps will play to their advantage.
“I have a lot of respect for Collin Klein and their coaches and their scheme,” Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said this week. “It will be a real challenge.”
Again, the likely X-factor will be Thomas. Although DAT didn’t have the year statistically most thought he’d have, ( 1,071 yards and 16 TD’s ), he still strains a defense with his presence on the field and is a threat to take it to the yard every time he touches the ball. Just ask Wisconsin’s former head coach Bret Bielema.
“Well number 6 is pretty special” said Bielema when referring to De’Anthony Thomas after last years Rose Bowl. “We talked about tackling, but on a couple of those plays,…you look at the 98 yarder or whatever that was, we didn’t even put a hand on him.”
Bielema went on to discuss the Oregon speed in that game. “We didn’t even challenge them on two or three of their scores and nobody can win doing that” explained Bielema.
“We do know they had the speed to outrun us if they got to that point.”
The scores Bielema was referring to was Thomas’ 91 yard touchdown where he went untouched up the middle and his 64 yard run in virtually the same fashion.
Thomas not only has the ability to make an impact with the ball, he also has the ability to make an impact without it.
Because defenses are extremely wary of Thomas’ presence in his various positions on the field, they often times soften in other areas of the field giving Oregon an advantage with their other offensive weapons.
“It wasn’t frustrating,” Thomas explained when asked about defenses giving him additional coverage during the current season. “It just gave opportunities for other players on this team to make plays.”
It will be the same for Kansas State.
They’ll be forced to make the difficult decision of either shadowing Thomas with a double-team and allowing stars like Marcus Mariota, Kenjon Barner, Josh Huff and Colt Lyerla to beat them,…or play tight – straight up man to man coverage and hope their containment holds against the “black mamba.”
Either way, DAT will once again use his speed to his advantage and exploit what Kansas State gives or shows.
A likely reinactment of his first trip to a BCS game on one of college footballs most visible stages.
Exactly where Thomas likes it.
When all is said and done though, there’s only one thing that matters to Thomas.
And that’s a BCS bowl win!
“My mindset right now is, I’ve just got to have a big game and be there for my team.”