LOS ANGELES – The No. 4 Oregon Ducks football team (9-0, 6-0) found themselves in a star-studded shootout against the No. 17 USC Trojans (6-3, 4-3) with the Ducks prevailing, 62-51, behind a record-breaking performance by star running back Kenjon Barner.
Barner, in the win, broke former Oregon great LaMichael James‘ record for most rushing yards in a single game, set last year against Arizona. Barner finished with 321 yards rushing and five TDs, propelling his name into the Heisman talks.
“I just told (Barner) to take what they give him… And they gave him a lot” James said to reporters.
Barner also broke records for most yards rushed against USC in the LA Coliseum and more. He has burst onto the national scene since a breakout performance against Washington State when running backs coach Gary Campbell told Barner he wanted to him to run with more emotion.
After the game, James took to Twitter to call out those still doubting Oregon’s back. James, now on a bye week with the San Francisco 49ers, was on the sidelines playing cheerleader to Barner.
Would you please give @KBDeuce4 the heisman already? If he don't win it was staged he's the best player in the country right now!— LaMike james (@LaMichaelJames) November 4, 2012
Barner now has 20 total touchdowns on the season and 1,479 total yards. His name is now in the conversation with Mante Te’o of Notre Dame and Colin Klein of Kansas State.
Lost in the shootout was quarterback Marcus Mariota, who silently put together his strongest showing of the season. The calm, cool and collected Mariota finished the game 20 of 23 passing with 304 yards through the air, 96 on the ground for a grand total of 400 yards and four TDs.
“We have so many guys here that really can take it all the way, at any point in time,” Mariota said to reporters after the game. “It’s a fun offense to play in.”
Oregon’s offense racked up 730 yards of total offense, 436 of which came on the ground. Oregon’s defense, however, allowed USC to put up 615 yards and 51 points on the scoreboard.
Talk coming into the game was about how Oregon’s secondary would hold up to the powerful trio of USC quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receivers Marquise Lee and Robert Woods. Barkley picked apart the Ducks’ secondary, passing for 484 yards on 35 of 54 with five TDs. Oregon did force two interceptions – one by linebacker Kiko Alonso and the other by cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.
Lee did the majority of his damage on special teams. He finished the game with 157 yards receiving on 12 catches (13.1 YPC) with two TDs as well as 251 yards on kick returns (31.4 average) and a long of 82 that nearly went for a score. Woods finished with six catches for 71 yards and one TD.
“It was going to be one of those games,” Oregon head coach Chip Kelly said to reports in regards to responding to USC’s offensive threats. “We had to continue to answer offensively, because those are three all-time greats.”
Oregon struggled to put pressure on Barkley all night long, partly due to the absence of all-confernce defensive end Dion Jordan. Jordan left the game in the first half after appearing to re-injure his shoulder. No timetable has been set on his return.
Despite a poor defense performance, the Ducks have to be excited about the potential of this season. Oregon is likely to jump now No. 3 Notre Dame in the computer polls, and will close the gap behind No. 2 Kansas State. Ducks fans will anxiously be awaiting to hear the results tonight at 5:45 on where they now stand.
BCS expert Brad Edwards expects Oregon to move to No. 3 this week and eventually surpass Kansas State once the computer polls catch up.