Thomas Thrills, No. 4 Ducks Dominate, Beat Buffs 70-14
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There are impressive punt returns, and then there is what De’Anthony Thomas in the second quarter of Oregon’s (8-0) 70-14 victory over Colorado (1-7) Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
The sophomore athlete watched Colorado punter Darragh O’Neill’s 49-yard punt sail over his head, caught the ball on a bounce and ranged over 10 yards backwards before shifting directions. He then crossed to the other side of the field, and stutter-stepped past multiple Buffaloes defenders with the help of a slew of Oregon blockers before sprinting 73 yards downfield for the score.
In the blink of an eye, Thomas turned a questionable decision to field the ball into an electric touchdown.
“He has a little bit of leeway just because of his ability once he gets it in his hands,” said head coach Chip Kelly. “He can field as many punts as he wants if he keeps doing that.”
It was the exclamation point on an exceedingly lopsided game, as the Ducks compiled 617 total yards and allowed just 245. Thomas added 97 yards rushing, nine of which came on a touchdown run on Oregon’s second drive of the game, and Kenjon Barner ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns, and caught two passes for 47 yards.
“The receivers block better than any other receiving core in the country,” said Barner. “The guys up front do a great job communicating and getting everyone on the same page. Once we get everyone on the same page, it’s hard to stop this team.”
Barner’s first touchdown was a 1-yard run, coming on Oregon’s opening drive. Colorado return man Tony Jones fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by Avery Patterson. Following Thomas’s score, it was 14-0 Ducks, just two minutes and 32 seconds into the first quarter.
It would get much, much worse for the Buffaloes.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota ran for a 5-yard touchdown of his own, completed a 16-yard pass to Bralon Addison for a score, and Barner tallied his second touchdown, on a 24-yard rush with 12:36 remaining in the second quarter.
Then, it was Thomas sending the Autzen crowd into hysterics, delivering a punt return for a touchdown that will undoubtedly circulate highlight reels for a long while.
Mariota added one more touchdown pass, a 7-yarder to Daryle Hawkins, before ceding to backup quarterback Bryan Bennett. Mariota finished with 136 yards passing on 10 completions out of 14 attempts. The redshirt freshman added 23 yards rushing on four carries.
Bennett, whose lone start in 2011 came against the Buffaloes, ran wild, racking up 73 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries, along with 43 yards passing. His first touchdown came with 20 seconds remaining in the first half, scoring from 6 yards out to put the Ducks up 56-0 at the half.
“If you’re mentally strong, you have to focus your mind on what you’re going to do when you get the shot,” said Bennett, who has assumed the role of second-half quarterback for much of the season. “Be a part of the game, even if I’m not in – those things will pay off.”
Bennett, a sophomore, added touchdown runs of 3 and 17 yards in the third quarter.
Colorado scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter, albeit against Oregon’s second and third unit defense. Running back Christian Powell, who ran for 121 yards on 20 carries, scored on rushes of 1 and 20 yards.
Oregon running back Byron Marshall also shined in second half action, compiling 67 yards on 12 carries. The Ducks travel to Los Angeles to take on the USC Trojans next Saturday at 4 PM.