Ducks overcome ASU, injury to QB Thomas
Barner rushes for 171 yards, with James out of action
EUGENE - No LaMichael James for the entire game. No Darron Thomas for the second half. No problem for the Oregon Ducks, who got their running game rolling and beat Arizona State 41-27 Saturday night at Autzen Stadium.
James sat out after suffering an injured elbow against California, and then Thomas went out of the game after being tackled early in the second half, with Arizona State defender Colin Parker falling on his knees.
Thomas got up and ran off the field, but backup QB Bryan Bennett replaced him and led the Ducks to two consecutive touchdowns, overcoming an ASU lead and helping the Ducks fend off the upset-minded Sun Devils before an Autzen-record crowd of 60,055.
The Ducks moved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in Pac-12 play, and will travel to play Colorado at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22. Meanwhile, ASU (5-2, 3-1) couldn't manage the win even with the opposition missing its two top players at crunch time, with penalties still besetting coach Dennis Erickson's team.
Thomas said he stayed out of the game for "precautionary reasons," adding, "I'm gonna be all right. I just got hit ... the wrong way." He'll get tests and treatment, and he expects to be ready for Colorado.
"We were up, and Bryan was playing well," coach Chip Kelly said, of not putting Thomas back into the game, while also stating that "Darron was out."
After Thomas' injury, the Sun Devils quickly scored to go ahead 24-21. Jamal Miles ran for 51 yards, and Cameron Marshall scored on a 4-yard TD run.
But the UO backups came to the rescue - quarterback Bennett and running backs Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas, with Barner rushing for 171 yards with his second-half surge of runs. The Ducks rushed for 269 of their 327 yards in the second half.
"We didn't want to put too much pressure on Bryan," Barner said. "It was a huge game, and as a running back group, we had to pick it up more. Our offensive line got blocks, the run game got going and coach Kelly stuck with it."
Thomas scampered 29 yards on a nifty run, and then scored on a 3-yard run up the middle, his second score of the game, as UO went ahead 28-24.
The Sun Devils had third-and-2 on the next drive, but QB Brock Osweiler and his playcallers opted to throw downfield to running back Kyle Middlebrooks, and the Ducks broke up the play.
After the incompletion and punt, the Ducks scored again. Bennett ran 36 yards to the UO 48, and then 18 to the ASU 34. He fumbled, but he was ruled down, a call that stood after review. Barner ran 29 yards and then scored on a 5-yard TD run as UO led 35-24.
The UO defense came up big with sacks by Josh Kaddu and Dewitt Stuckey, and Alejandro Maldonado kicked a 37-yard field goal to put Oregon up by two touchdowns, 38-24, seconds in the fourth quarter.
"We executed well as an offense," Bennett said. "We kept putting points on the board, so I was happy with our performance."
But ASU wouldn't quit. Osweiler hit Gerell Robinson for a 48-yard pass play. Alex Garoutte's 30-yard field goal made it 38-27.
Barner continued to roll. He ran for 24 and 18 yards, as the Ducks looked to score again. Maldonado's 24-yard field goal made it 41-27 with 9:26 left.
It was academic, but the Ducks held ASU scoreless down the stretch. The Sun Devils started a drive at their 5-yard line, and drove to the UO 21, but, with 56 seconds left, Anthony Gildon picked off an Osweiler pass that bounced off Miles in the end zone.
Oregon had 536 yards offense to ASU's 460, but made the most impact on the ground.
"Against a real good defense, you have to mix it up," Kelly said. "Once we wear them down, we can control the clock a little bit."
Barner's 171 yards came on 31 carries. De'Anthony Thomas added 73 yards on seven carries and Bennett 65 yards on five carries. Darron Thomas finished 13 of 17 for 187 yards and two scores, Bennett went 2 of 5 for 22 yards. "Impressed with him," Kelly said, of his backup QB.
Osweiler went 29 of 46 for 291 yards and two TDs, but he had two passes intercepted and was sacked four times. Marshall had 97 yards rushing, but UO contained ASU's running game early.
"That's a good football team," Kelly said, of ASU. "I'm proud of our guys. We talked about playing 60 minutes, and that's what we did."
Barner has been a superb backup to James, and he got his chance to shine Saturday.
"We're fortunate to have running back depth," Kelly said. "Kenjon could start at a lot of schools. We have a ton of confidence in him."
With running games held in check, the quarterbacks excelled in the first half. If not for some personal foul penalties and one key turnover, the Sun Devils would have led at halftime. Instead, a huge turn of events led to UO's 21-17 halftime lead.
Barner fumbled on UO's second play of the game, and ASU's Parker recovered at the UO 36. On third-and-8, Osweiler threw a 20-yard TD pass to Robinson.
The Ducks scored to tie it, thanks to a personal foul penalty on notorious ASU linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Thomas threw to David Paulson for 16 yards, and Burfict hit Paulson out of bounds for the penalty. Very quickly, De'Anthony Thomas scooted past some tacklers on a 16-yard TD run.
But Osweiler kept getting hot, and his 25-yard, pinpoint TD pass to Mike Willie - who beat Cliff Harris - made it 14-7, ASU.
Barner appeared to run for a 59-yard TD, but an illegal block penalty nullified the play. The Ducks even faked a punt, with Bennett lined up in an odd formation. He came up a yard short of a first down on a run, but Boseko Lokombo sacked Osweiler on third down to force a punt as the second quarter started.
In one key sequence, the Sun Devils appeared to have stopped the Ducks, as Thomas threw incomplete from his end zone on third down. But ASU's Bo Moos got whistled for a hands-to-the-face penalty, giving the Ducks new life. Thomas threw 45 yards to Josh Huff, and then 28 yards to Lavasier Tuinei for the touchdown and 14-14 tie.
Burfict got another late-hit penalty, but Shelly Lyons picked off Thomas and returned it to the UO 20. But Osweiler threw three incompletions, and Garoutte's 37-yard field goal made it 17-14, ASU.
Burfict continued to wreak havoc. After a Thomas-to-De'Anthony Thomas completion and Burfict tackle, UO center Hroniss Grasu got called for a personal foul when he pushed the ASU linebacker. The Ducks punted, and ASU appeared to be moving for more points with less than four minutes left in the half.
Marshall found some running room, and Osweiler hit Jamal Miles for 10 yards and then Robinson for 12; but Robinson, upon getting up from the tackle, got called for a personal foul on a tangle with UO safety John Boyett.
On the next play from the UO 37, Osweiler threw into the end zone, way over the head of his intended receiver and Harris made his presence known for the first time all season, picking off the pass and returning the ball 50 yards to midfield.
"I thought our defense really had our back," Kelly said.
Oregon had the ball with 51 seconds left and, very quickly again, the Ducks scored. Thomas threw 11 yards to Justin Hoffman, 27 to Huff and then 12 to Paulson for the touchdown with 27 seconds left in the first half, and the Ducks led 21-17 at halftime.
ASU 14 3 7 3 -- 27
OREGON 7 14 14 6 -- 41
ASU -- 1st, 11:40: Gerell Robinson 20 pass from Brock Osweiler (Alex Garoutte kick)
UO -- 1st, 7:33: De'Anthony Thomas 16 run (Alejandro Maldonado kick)
ASU -- 1st, 4:10: Mike Willie 25 pass from Osweiler (Garoutte kick)
UO -- 2nd, 12:07: Lavasier Tuinei 28 pass from Darron Thomas (Maldonado kick)
ASU -- 2nd, 7:52: Garoutte 37 FG
UO -- 2nd, 0:27: David Paulson 12 pass from Darron Thomas (Maldonado kick)
ASU -- 3rd, 12:21: Cameron Marshall 4 run (Garoutte kick)
UO -- 3rd, 10:31: De'Anthony Thomas 3 run (Maldonado kick)
UO -- 3rd, 8:01: Kenjon Barner 5 run (Maldonado kick)
UO -- 4th, 14:40: Maldonado 37 FG
ASU - 4th, 12:44: Garoutte 30 FG
UO -- 4th, 9:26: Maldonado 24 FG