The Oregon Ducks’ first three wins were all blowouts over overmatched foes and many pundits in the national media were hyping the duo of De’Anthony Thomas and Marcus Mariota as potential Heisman and All-American candidates.
They were also, however, forgetting about running back Kenjon Barner, whose workload was limited in these lopsided affairs. I warned readers back in September to not forget about number 24 in the midst of all of the Thomas/Mariota love, and after his Saturday performance against USC, I think it’s safe to say that nobody is sleeping on Barner any longer.
Barner rushed for a school-record 321 yards on 38 carries and five touchdowns in Oregon’s 62-51 win over the No. 17 Trojans in what may have been the single greatest game in Ducks history. The freshly named National Player of the Week scored on runs of 27, 5, 9, 5 and 22 yards, tying the Pac-12 record for rushing touchdowns in a single game. Superlatives aside, it would be hard to make the case that this wasn’t the greatest individual offensive performance in Oregon history.
Of course we can’t forget what LaMichael James did in the desert just a year ago when he broke a rushing record that had stood for over a decade. In Oregon’s 56—31 victory last September over Arizona, James rushed for 288 yards and two touchdowns on just 23 carries. However, James’ game came against a lowly Arizona squad that was not billed to be the preseason No. 1 like USC was.
Looking on a bigger stage, Danny O’Neil deserves to be in the running with his memorable 1994 Rose Bowl performance. O’Neil set single game Rose Bowl records for pass completions (41) and passing yards (465). Had the Ducks beat Penn State and won the Rose Bowl, O’Neil might be given the easy nod over Barner. But as it is, the Ducks lost 38-20.
And finally, no conversation about the greatest single-game in Duck history can be complete without mention of Joey Harrington. Harrington’s four touchdown, 350-yard effort against Colorado in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl led the Ducks to their first ever BCS bowl win.
It’s hard to pick a favorite between this: Harrington’s final game as a Duck, Barner’s game against USC, and to be honest you can’t go wrong with either. Less than a week after Barner stormed the Trojans it’s certainly clear that what he accomplished on Nov. 3, 2012 in LA will be cherished in Oregon lore. So, speaking of Oregon lore, could this be the season Ducks fans finally see a Heisman winner?
It remains to be seen, but Barner’s coming out party on Saturday puts him in a good position. As long as the Ducks keep winning, and Barner keeps racking up the yards, Ducks fans will undoubtedly see Kenjon in New York City for the Heisman ceremony. The hard part will be beating out Kansas State’s stud quarterback Collin Klein. Klein left Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury, and could sit out next week, which would definitely boost Barner’s stock.
Barner’s main competition, Klein and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, also happen to play for teams that are Oregon’s main competition in the national title race. The human pollsters have the Ducks rated higher at No. 2, but the computers have KSU and ND above the Ducks. If all three go undefeated, in what many call the BCS armageddon scenario, there will surely be controversy no matter who goes to the title game.
But, if Notre Dame and Kansas State were to lose, it would not only help the Ducks chances for a national championship, but it would also boost Barner’s chances to be Oregon’s first ever Heisman winner.
With only four Saturdays left, Oregon fans have a couple of other favorite teams to cheer for in the coming weekends.
Comment below with where you think Barner’s performance ranks all time and other great single-game Ducks performances.