Ducks do better on ground, even without Thomas
EUGENE Injured on the opening kickoff return Saturday against California, De'Anthony Thomas says he will find out the extent of damage to his sore right ankle after further tests Sunday.
Thomas appeared to twist the ankle while making a cut. He limped to the sideline, where he had ice applied to the foot. He could not return to the game.
"I tried to walk it off," said Thomas, whose absence didn't slow the Ducks.
Oregon enjoyed solid rushing games by Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner and stomped the Bears 55-16 in the rain at Autzen Stadium.
"We'll see how it goes," Thomas said. "I'm very focused. I'll get out there when I can. Just trying to stay positive and keep a smile on my face."
The Ducks (4-0) play at Colorado at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, a game they should win handily so it might be OK to leave Thomas home to recuperate.
Coach Mark Helfrich, picking up where predecessor Chip Kelly left off, does not comment on injuries, in part he says because he doesn't want opposing teams to target injured players and their injured body parts.
Helfrich said "I do not" have an update on Thomas' condition.
Even without their 5-9, 165-pound spitfire, the Ducks rushed for 264 yards on a rainy and blustery night when the Cal passing game succumbed to the conditions true freshman Jared Goff and ball carriers couldn't hold on to the ball.
Oregon QB Marcus Mariota (11 of 24 for 114 yards) had throws go awry, but managed to throw two TD passes and run for a short score.
Bralon Addison tied the UO record (set by Cliff Harris in 2010) with two punt returns for touchdowns, runbacks of 75 and 67 yards.
Marshall, pressed into more action, had 19 carries for 130 yards and TD scores of 14 and 25 yards.
Prized rookie Thomas Tyner added 94 yards and a 21-yard TD run on 13 carries, although he lost a fumble in the first half the Ducks' first turnover of the season.
Translation: A lot of UO's damage came on the ground, in part because of the wicked weather.
It was a step in the right direction for the UO running game, which had been the Ducks' calling card under Kelly.
"We had been talking about the past couple weeks trying to balance out the carries and touches," Helfrich said.
The rain and wind helped cause four Cal lost fumbles in the first quarter; the Bears also had an interception in the end zone.
The Ducks had four fumbles (one lost, by Tyner), two of them by Marshall, in the first quarter alone.
"I'm happy how I responded," Marshall said. "Slow start for myself. I don't really fumble. It's not OK, no matter what the conditions. We didn't lose the ball, though."
The lesson he learned from dropping the ball: Keep two hands on the pigskin.
Marshall said he wasn't anticipating that much action in the first half; Thomas' injury led to that.
"I just had to hop in and play the best I could," Marshall said.
Tyner got meaningful extended action as meaningful as action can be with the Ducks blowing out the hapless Bears.
"I thought he had a good game," Marshall said of Tyner, who didn't show up for post-game interviews. "He really hit the holes. He was running hard. He's still building more and more as a player. You can see that."
Helfrich concurred: "He did OK. He has to handle the ball a little better. Overall, (I'm) encouraged."
Helfrich said of Tyner's fumble: "A great teaching thing. A couple times he was trying to over-secure the ball."
Mariota, the Ducks' Heisman Trophy candidate who added only 33 yards on six carries, said both running backs played well.
"Both were hitting the holes really well," he said. "It's great to see (Byron's play), because you have another back now. With each game and each practice, you kind of see Thomas grow. I think that's pretty special. He's going to be a special player."
On Addison's second punt return for a TD, he looked tired and surprised when he crossed the goal line. He made a lot of cuts and went through a lot of Cal players to get to paydirt after 67 yards.
"Me and Dior (Mathis) ran into each other," he said, of his UO teammate. "He kind of gave me a boost. The next thing you know I end up inside the 20-yard-line. I saw four or five green jerseys in front of me, and I was like, 'Wow.' Those guys escorted me all the way. Erick Dargan had a couple blocks on that return."
The Ducks have won games by 63 points (Nicholls State), 49 points (Virginia), 45 points (Tennessee) and 39 points (Cal).
Will they be able to handle a close game?
"I don't think that's a question at all," Addison said. "That's what Coach Helfrich preaches.
"We know we can't get off our horses. If we take off the dogs in the second half and be relaxed and lazy, it'll hinder us from getting better."
Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti was asked whether the Ducks' offense was just really good or the opposition was really bad. (Although, because of weather, the Ducks had only 381 yards total offense).
"I think they're that good. I think they're unbelievable," he said. "I don't know if I've ever seen an offense execute the way we do. Our offense is fantastic. Our defense is playing good enough to keep us in the game. ... I thought (Saturday) we'd be tested; it probably wasn't fair (for Cal), because they weren't able to throw the ball like they wanted to."
Goff went 3 of 6 for 11 yards in the first quarter, before being pulled in favor of Zach Kline.
Helfrich, on the weather: "It was crazy out there, a flashback to my Coos Bay days. That was meritorious service (by fans)."
The Ducks had six fumbles and lost two (by Tyner and punt returner Chad Delaney).
"I don't think we could emphasize (ball security) even more than we do," Helfrich said.
Mariota's mother and grandmother visited him last week, helping him move into a new place. They also watched the game. Mariota said he enjoys mom's visits.
"It's always nice to have your mom around, because she fills up your refrigerator," he said. "I was very thankful."
Cal coach Sonny Dykes, formerly the Louisiana Tech head man, said the weather conditions were adverse.
"In Louisiana, we played in a hurricane one time. It was a bit rougher than that (Saturday)," he said. "You've got to give Oregon credit. They're a good football team, and they executed well despite the rain. We had some major struggles with the rain."
Dykes said switching to Kline wasn't about Goff's confidence.
"We were just worried about his ability to hold on to the football," he said. "I didn't have much confidence that he was going to be able to hold on to it."