Oregon doesn't blink with injuries
For a lot of teams, injuries to the starting quarterback and a Heisman-finalist running back might mean some drastic adjustments.
Not at No. 9 Oregon.
''Our game plan doesn't change with the loss of a back. Our game plan doesn't change right now with the loss of a quarterback,'' Kelly said. ''Fortunately for us.''
James, who dislocated his elbow on Oct. 6 against California, still has not carried the ball in practice. The nation's top rusher told reporters Tuesday he was awaiting a special brace. He plans on making the trip to Boulder and dressing for the game, but doesn't know yet if he'll play.
''I definitely could play,'' James said, ''It's one of those things - if they need me to play.''
James, who is averaging 170.4 yards a game, ran for 239 yards and a touchdown before he was hurt in the fourth quarter of Oregon's 43-15 victory over the Golden Bears.
The prospect for Thomas was more vague. If he doesn't start, the job will go to redshirt freshman backup Bryan Bennett.
The junior quarterback was hurt when an Arizona State player landed squarely on his legs in last weekend's 41-27 victory over the Sun Devils. He has been seen in full pads after Oregon's closed practices, but it is not known if he has been taking snaps.
The Ducks do not discuss injuries as a policy, so it is anyone's guess how much, if at all, either Thomas or James will play.
''You just have to be ready,'' safety Eddie Pleasant said about the situation. ''You can be called at any time so you have to be ready to go.''
The Ducks (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) have so far appeared fine without their two biggest stars.
Last weekend against Arizona State, backup Kenjon Barner started and ran for 171 yards and a score. True freshman De'Anthony Thomas ran for 73 yards and two more touchdowns, while accounting for 203 all-purpose yards.
Darron Thomas was injured early in the second half with the Ducks trailing 24-21. It was reminiscent of 2007, when Oregon was ranked No. 2 and Heisman-hopeful quarterback Dennis Dixon injured his knee running against the Sun Devils.
Bennett stepped in for Thomas and calmly 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 completed two of five passes for 22 yards, while Barner was piling up yards on the ground.
''The only thing you can do is try to stay poised and do what you've practiced,'' Bennett said.
Coach Chip Kelly said he wasn't surprised.
''That's what we expected out of him,'' Kelly said. ''I don't hold my breath with our backup quarterback.''
Thomas has thrown 17 touchdown passes with three interceptions this season. He has run for two more scores. After he was injured he insisted he was fine - just sore. He hasn't spoken to the media since.
The Buffaloes (1-6, 0-3) are hurting, too. The team lost leading tackler Douglas Rippy to a season-ending knee injury in Saturday's loss at Washington. His cousin, top tailback Rodney Stewart, is out for up to a month with a sprained knee.
The Buffs also will be without senior receiver Kyle Cefalo (knee) Saturday against Oregon. Top receiver Paul Richardson (knee) and senior cornerbacks Brian Lockridge (ankle) and Travis Sandersfeld (leg) all remain out after getting hurt earlier this season.