Oregon’s Tyner looks to end challenging season on high note

DALLAS (AP) Thomas Tyner’s struggles this season are largely inconsequential to him now that Oregon is in the national championship game.

The Ducks’ running back came into his sophomore season with such promise, but was slowed by injuries and overshadowed by the breakout of freshman Royce Freeman.

”You’ve got to get over yourself. I could care less about the season I had. It’s the season that the team has. Not that I have,” he said as the Ducks prepared to play Ohio State in Monday’s title game.

That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t like a little redemption.

”Of course we’d like to go out with a win. And if I can help make that happen, the better,” he said.

The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Oregon native missed the Ducks’ last regular-season game against in-state rival Oregon State and the Pac-12 championship against Arizona with a shoulder injury.

But he returned – and rebounded – in the Rose Bowl against Florida State. Tyner had 13 carries for 124 yards and two scores in a 59-20 victory that sent Oregon on to the championship game.

Playing in 10 games this season, Tyner was third for the Ducks with 511 yards rushing with five touchdowns. Freeman is atop the list with 1,343 yards and quarterback Marcus Mariota has scrambled for 731.

Freeman’s star rose over the course of the season. He ran for 169 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries in a victory over Washington on Oct. 18 en route to becoming Oregon’s first true freshman with more than 1,000 yards. Freeman finished with 19 touchdowns and was named the Pac-12’s freshman of the year on offense.

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said he understands it’s been tough for Tyner.

”Thomas is a guy that is still- his best football is ahead of him, and he’s really good.” Helfrich said. ”It’s just a matter of consistency, focus, concentration, and a little bit of luck in terms of staying healthy.”

Nicknamed Dash at Aloha High School west of Portland, Tyner rushed for 3,415 yards as a senior, setting a new single single-season rushing record for the state. He scored 47 touchdowns, 43 on the ground. On his 18th birthday during his senior year, Tyner smashed state records with 643 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns in an 84-63 victory over Lakeridge High; only two prep players have rushed for more yards in a single game.

Tyner said during fall camp there were times during his freshman year in Eugene that he wasn’t fully engaged. But he is a fan of the Ducks’ speedy spread-option offense that has made stars out of running backs including LaMichael James and Johnathan Stewart. Tyner said he hoped to join them: ”It’s time to grow up,” he said this fall. ”It’s time to step up and do it big.”

Unfortunately this wasn’t his season. But right now, it is not about him.

”Obviously, I didn’t have the season I wanted with injuries, but you try to look at the better things: the team has had a great season,” he said. ”And that’s all I care about.”