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Ducks get back in the running

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - De'Anthony Thomas scores one of his three rushing touchdowns as the Oregon Ducks beat Oregon State 48-24 Saturday at Reser Stadium.CORVALLIS — Oregon coach Chip Kelly said the Ducks “ran the same plays we run every week.”

The difference, then, between the Oregon State game (430 yards rushing) and Oregon's previous two outings (400 yards total on the ground)?

“We blocked them better,” Kelly said, after the Ducks' 48-24 Civil War victory over the Beavers.

Oregon also got a more determined and gritty performance from its two backfield stars. Kenjon Barner overcame an injury, carrying for two touchdowns despite a first-half injury, and De'Anthony Thomas took things to the extreme, rushing for three TDs and drawing a personal foul by kicking a Beaver.

In the first half, Barner was nearly unstoppable. The senior tailback gained 105 yards in the first quarter on 11 carries. By halftime, he had rushed 19 times for 147 yards.

“We were able to get things going,” Barner said. “The guys did a great job of blocking so I could get to the edge and burst up field. When we took it inside, they did a great job. (Quarterback) Marcus (Mariota) did a great job of pulling guys away. It was an overall great effort by the team.”

Just before halftime, with the ball deep in Oregon territory, Barner took an inside handoff and hit the turf hard. He stayed down for a long time before walking slowly off the field.

“It was a small injury,” said Barner, who walked out of Reser Stadium before halftime with a noticeable limp. “A minor injury.”

Barner said he did not take anything for the pain during intermission.

“No shots,” he said. “No pills. Nothing like that.”

As the third quarter progressed, Barner tried to re-enter the game. He was stopped by Kelly before he could, though.

“We had a few words,” Barner said. “It was a player-coach conversation. I’ll leave it at that. It wasn’t anything bad. It wasn’t anything extreme. I just let him know, ‘I want to play.’ Coach Kelly trusts me. He knows that I’m a smart guy when it comes to my body and how I feel. He knows if I can’t go, I can’t go.”

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Oregon's Kenjon Barner gets into the end zone against Oregon State.Barner said that even if he had not been ready to play, he still would have convinced his coaches to allow him back into the game.

“Even if I couldn’t go, I would’ve told them that I could,” Barner said. “Having that trust helps. The decision-making was, I don’t care what the injury was, this was my last regular- season game. My team needs me. I want to be in there with my team. There hasn’t been any kind of injury that I’ve sustained throughout this season that was going to keep me down. Nothing was going to keep me down.”

When Kelly finally allowed Barner to go back into the game, he rewarded the coach by scoring his second touchdown and gaining another 57 yards in the half.

“Man, he’s a tough dude,” Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich marveled. “To play that well at this point … people don’t realize how many shots tailbacks take. Those guys get beat up. We’ve got some tough guys, and we need them to stay tough.”

Part of the reason Kelly may have been hesitant to send Barner back into the fray was how well Thomas was playing.

“We know what he can do,” Kelly said, of Thomas. “The one thing that we’ve always been fortunate in is we have a couple of really good players in that position and only one ball. When you can bring (Number) Six off the bench, it’s a huge boost for us.”

Said Barner: “De’Anthony Thomas is a great player. It’s definitely a good feeling to know that you have guys behind you that can go in and pick it up right where you left it off and go further.”

The 5-9 Thomas might not have Barner’s ability to break tackles, but if there was an open hole Saturday, Thomas exploded through it, leaving the Beavers little chance of stopping him before he had run for a gain.

“I was trying to get the momentum going for our team and make plays and get everybody on the same page and have fun,” Thomas said. “The linemen out there were making key blocks and having fun.”

With Barner seeing limited action in the second half, Thomas became Oregon’s every-down back, taking 10 of his 17 carries in the final two quarters. In the third quarter, Thomas took his new role too far, though.

Thomas said he was the victim of “a lot of cheap shots out there from them guys (Oregon State’s defense).”

After an 8-yard gain, Thomas was tackled by OSU’s Jordan Poyer. When he got up, Thomas kicked Poyer as he lay on the ground.

“Yes, I did,” Thomas said. “But I just tried to stay focused and not let that get to me. I just gave a little shot.”

Helfrich said the Oregon coaches addressed Thomas’ action, which resulted in a personal foul.

“I didn’t personally talk to him, but it’s been addressed,” Helfrich said.

While Helfrich and the Ducks coaches did not condone Thomas losing his head, Helfrich liked the intensity that Barner and Thomas showed to get Oregon’s running game back on track.

“Guys played a little harder,” Helfrich said. “They finished a little better and made some plays.”