Injuries don't break deep Ducks
EUGENE, Ore. (AP)
Injuries have caused the players to change, but essentially Oregon stays the same.
The past two games have been scary for Ducks fans. First, they saw running back LaMichael James hit the turf with a dislocated shoulder against California.
The ninth-ranked Ducks (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) hardly blinked. They defeated Cal 45-15, then rallied from a deficit to beat then-No. 18 Arizona State 41-27.
''One of the things we don't talk about, we don't talk about injuries,'' Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. ''We talk about it as an opportunity for someone else to go in and there is something to be said to that.''
In James' case, the opportunity went to backup Kenjon Barner, who ran for 171 yards and a score against Arizona State.
Barner, James' equally speedy best friend, got off to a slow start with 23 yards in the first half. On the first series he had a fumble that would lead to a Sun Devils' touchdown.
''I had to settle down. I think I came out a little too amped up for myself,'' Barner said. ''Instead of controlling my jitters I let my jitters control me. Once the game got going I got into a groove.''
Barner, who was hampered by an ankle injury earlier in the season, has run for four touchdowns in four games for the Ducks.
James, a Heisman trophy finalist who leads the nation with an average of 170.4 yards a game, was hurt in the Oct. 6 victory over the Golden Bears.
He said Saturday night that he felt he could have played against the Sun Devils, describing himself as at ''80 percent.''
Thomas had thrown for 187 yards and two scores against Arizona State when he was injured early in the second half. Although he jogged to the sideline, he later had a pronounced limp when he headed for the locker room.
When he emerged, he was wearing a brace or wrap on his leg. He watched the remainder of the game huddled under a bulky raincoat, often chatting with James.
Thomas has thrown 17 touchdown passes with three interceptions this season. He has run for two more scores.
After the game he insisted he was fine - just sore. And he praised backup Bryan Bennett, who had appeared in two prior games this season and had thrown for two scores.
Oregon was trailing 24-21 when Bennett came in, and he adroitly led a scoring drive that ended with De'Anthony Thomas' 3-yard scoring run to put the Ducks back in the lead. Oregon scored 17 straight points.
Bennett finished 2 of 5 for 22 yards, while Barner was collecting yards on the ground.
''He had to go in and win the game for us,'' Thomas said. ''He did a great job managing the game and playing hard.''
Bennett, a redshirt freshman from Encino, Calif., who bulked up in the offseason, has showed concerned onlookers at Autzen that he possesses both speed and a strong arm.
''The only thing you can do is try to stay poised and do what you've practiced,'' he said.
Oregon also saw another stellar performance against the Sun Devils from De'Anthony Thomas, who accounted for 203 all-purpose yards and rushed for two scores.
The victory was Oregon's 20th straight at Autzen Stadium.
The Ducks, who remained at No. 9 for the second straight week in the AP Top 25 released on Sunday, visit Colorado next week before hosting Washington State to close out October.
Perhaps their biggest challenge of the season will come on Nov. 12 at No. 7 Stanford.