DUCKS NOTES: James ready, if needed; Barner, Harris, 'DAT' and defense step up
EUGENE - LaMichael James, who watched as his backup ran for 171 yards in Oregon's victory over Arizona State, says he could return to the lineup against Colorado on Saturday, if the Ducks need him.
Talking about his right elbow injury, James said:
"I feel really good. If I had to play, I would play. I'm just going to take it one day at a time. If I had to play, I could, 100 percent; don't know if I'd be 100 percent (healthy), but I'd probably be like 80. But I can definitely play."
James said soreness and swelling still bother him.
"It's really not bad," he said. "I'm not wearing a brace anymore. I'm getting my range of mobility back. Just (want to) strengthen it, get the swelling down a little bit more and I'll be OK."
• Backup running back Kenjon Barner ran for 171 yards on 31 carries (both career highs) and scored a touchdown, and De'Anthony Thomas had 73 yards and two TDs in the 41-27 win against ASU.
Barner started slowly, as the Sun Devils looked to stop UO's run game, giving opportunities to the pass game. But he turned it on as the game progressed. The Ducks rushed for 269 of their 327 yards in the second half. It was Oregon's fourth consecutive game of 300-plus rushing yards.
"Kenjon had a phenomenal game," said James, who watched Saturday night's game from the sideline, helping coach Barner and Thomas. "The offensive line did a good job blocking for him, and the pass (game) helped him out. He really ran hard.
"I feel like he was doing everything right."
Barner fumbled on UO's first series.
"He just had the ball loose, away from his body" James said. "They get a lot of turnovers, and Kenjon's a victim now."
Barner has played in the shadow of James, a fellow junior and UO's all-time leading rusher. Against ASU, it was his time to shine.
"You come out here to play football," Barner said. "No one wants to sit behind anybody, no matter what they say."
Barner admitted to having jitters, which led to the early fumble. He said James, QB Darron Thomas and running backs coach Gary Campbell helped settle him down.
"I got into a groove," he said.
Kelly said that Barner didn't "step up," because it was simply a situation where the player had the ball more in his hands. The Ducks know what Barner can do.
"There's no difference, no dropoff," he said, of playing Barner rather than James. "The problem we have is we have two great running backs. Both can't carry 30 times in a game, that's 60 carries in a game."
• Oregon is 10th in the first Bowl Championship Series standings. The nine teams ahead of the Ducks, all unbeaten except Arkansas, are: LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Boise State, Wisconsin, Clemson, Stanford and Arkansas.
• Darron Thomas hurt his knees against Arizona State, and feels that he'll be "all right." Because of coach Chip Kelly's policy of not talking about injuries, and the fact that practices are closed, it'll be hard to tell how much Thomas will prepare for and play against Colorado.
Backup Bryan Bennett performed well against ASU, and true freshman Marcus Mariota would play, if something should happen to Bennett, Kelly said.
"Marcus' progress has been really good," he said. "He has a good football mind. Really smart kid. Really intelligent and athletic."
• Cliff Harris, the maligned cornerback and punt returner, played a more significant role against ASU. With James out and Barner occupied with carries, Harris fielded punts. With ASU's Brock Osweiler slinging the ball, the Ducks put in Harris to make some defensive plays.
Harris gave up a touchdown reception to Mike Willie, and picked off Osweiler in the end zone and returned the ball 50 yards before fumbling (the Ducks retained possession).
"It's what we see from Cliff - the good with the bad," Kelly said, of' Harris' game.
Coaches want to see Harris practice better, and be a more complete, sound player.
"We need Cliff to be a good football team," said Kelly, who had said the Ducks didn't miss Harris in the season-opening game against LSU.
Harris again refused media interview requests after the ASU game.
• De'Anthony Thomas continues to excel in his true freshman season. He has eight touchdowns, 264 yards rushing (8.3 per carry) and a team-leading 21 receptions.
His 16-yard TD run against ASU was a thing of beauty.
"Me and Kenjon had to hold it down for LaMike. We held up the throne," Thomas said. "Hopefully he'll get back soon. Once he gets back, it'll make our offense a lot better."
Kelly, on his phenom:
"Am I surprised? No. Not one bit, because we see it in practice. And that's what it is, it's confidence and demonstrated ability."
And, Thomas has bought into the team concept, offering this quote after the ASU win: "Congratulations to the line for blocking for our offense."
• The UO defense, which produced only four turnovers and gave up plenty of rushing and passing yards through five games, continued to improve. The defense forced two turnovers and sacked Osweiler four times (none by defensive linemen) and had 10 tackles for loss.
The Ducks' defensive identity - what is it?
"Keep chopping away," defensive end Dion Jordan said. "Younger guys are starting to understand it takes a lot of work to make those plays, attention to detail. We've been able to buy in. We have to keep progressing as the year goes along."
What will the Ducks be good at, by the time they play Stanford on Nov. 12?
"We'll have to be good at everything against Stanford," Jordan added. "Their quarterback (Andrew Luck) is No. 1 on the Heisman watch. They have a really good program, their players compete. It'll come down to who wants to win. It could be an ugly win ... whatever it takes."
• For at least the second time in his career as UO head coach, Kelly yelled at fans to be quiet as he stood on the field to do an interview with ESPN's Erin Andrews. He used the words "shut up" this time.
Kelly indicated that a fan, or fans, said inappropriate things.
"It was spur of the moment," Kelly said Sunday. "No. 1, you're not supposed to be on the field. No. 2, just because you're a fan and you paid your way into the game doesn't mean you can say things that are inappropriate.
"I think you pay a ticket to sit in the stands."
• This and that: The Ducks rushed for 327 yards and "it's a tribute to Kenjon and 'DAT' and those guys," offensive guard Carson York said. "There were a lot of tackles that were broken. There weren't a lot of clean holes for those guys to hit, it didn't feel like it. They were breaking arm tackles. We were doing our best to get a block." ... Josh Huff says the receiving corps can take some pride in UO's run game against ASU. "We preach every week that us receivers on the perimeter have to block," Huff said. "I don't need the ball every play to make something happen. I can do it blocking. My mood on running the ball: fine with me." ... Coach Dennis Erickson's ASU team suffers from what many of his past teams suffered from: penalties. The Sun Devils had eight for 95 yards, many of them crucial. Erickson, after the game, said penalties and turnovers - "stupid things" - hurt the Sun Devils and "you can't do it." ... Added Erickson: "The bottom line for us is: we got beat by a good football team." ... It's 20 consecutive wins at Autzen Stadium and 78 consecutive sellouts at Autzen, and 15 consecutive league wins for the Ducks. ... Before leaving with knee injuries, QB Thomas threw a touchdown in his 19th consecutive game - every start of his career. ... Linebacker Michael Clay returned to the lineup. ... The Ducks are 20-0 when leading at the half under Kelly. ... Kelly doesn't envision altitude being a problem at Boulder, Colo. "I'm confident about our players' conditioning going into the game," he said.