Oregon's offense more than James and Thomas
EUGENE, Ore. (AP)
LaMichael James says it all the time: The reason he's successful is because of the work of the offensive line.
But there are plenty of contributors on the Ducks' rugged offense who often get overlooked, from the O-line to David Paulson, a tight end who had career highs with eight catches for 105 yards and a touchdown in last week's 49-21 victory over Oregon State in the Civil War.
The win put Oregon (10-2, 8-1) in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game against UCLA (6-6, 5-4) on Friday at Autzen Stadium.
Paulson was the first Duck to have a game with 100 or more yards receiving this season.
Oregon's coaches and Paulson's teammates always say he's a hard worker and that many of the things he does for the Ducks don't necessarily translate into stats, like his blocking.
''D.P. has been the most consistent all year,'' Darron Thomas said. ''He is a tough guy, he can be banged up and you wouldn't even know it.''
Before the Civil War, Paulson's best outing this season was at Washington when he caught three passes for 64 yards and a score. He has five touchdown catches this season.
''He doesn't care if he ever gets the ball, he's content to block. It's the same demeanor whether he has a 10-catch performance or a zero-catch performance,'' Oregon coach Chip Kelly said.
Following the Civil War, Paulson was back at work on Sunday morning prepping for UCLA. If the Ducks can beat the Bruins, they'll win a third straight conference title and earn a spot in the Rose Bowl.
''I'm just trying to give our team an opportunity to win, if that's in the run game, or if it's blocking,'' said the mild-mannered senior who was named to the Pac-12 All-Academic first team with a 3.67 GPA in business. ''If I get an opportunity to make a catch, make a play when I get the chance, I'm just trying to help the team win.''
Friday's game will be his last at Autzen Stadium.
Like Paulson, senior receiver Lavasier Tuinei may not have huge numbers, but that doesn't lessen his value to the team. Tuinei, who has battled injuries at various times during his career at Oregon, has a career-high 35 catches for 406 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
Junior running back Kenjon Barner is also considered one of Oregon's playmakers on offense, although he is often overshadowed by James. This season he has run for 830 yards and he has 13 total touchdowns (11 rushing, two receiving).
''Kenjon's an unbelievable weapon for us. You see him all over the field, he's a selfless kid,'' Kelly said. ''He's one of the best gunners in the conference on our punt team, he does a great job at that. He'll play any position we ask of him.''
''I think everybody contributes and we don't really single one person out,'' Kelly said. ''For us to run the ball it takes 11 people. We've got a bunch of receivers who are doing an unbelievable job in perimeter blocking for us. Obviously the offensive line doesn't get enough credit for opening up those holes, so that Kenjon and LaMichael and De'Anthony can run through them. Darron. David Paulson at tight end.''
Oregon's overall offense is ranked sixth in the nation with an average of 510.58 yards per game. The rushing offense is fifth with 291 yards a game, and the Ducks are averaging 45.9 points per game, third-best nationally.
''The great thing about this team is that it's all about the team,'' Kelly added. ''It's all about we and not about me. There's not one player on our team that cares about the individual accolades. It's all about where we are as a group - and that's what makes this a special group.''