Thomas injury doesn't derail Ducks offense

Bralon Addison

For those expecting more of a challenge for Oregon on Saturday night, they might have better luck watching a future contest.

The No. 2 ranked Ducks didn't skip a beat offensively, picking apart the California Golden Bears en route to a 55-16 victory. Despite wet and blustery conditions that caused 10 total fumbles for both teams, Oregon jumped out to a 27-0 first quarter lead and never looked back.

By the end of the game (or what the east coast calls bedtime), Oregon looked every bit the team that should challenge for not only a Pac-12 championship, but a national title as well.

The win did not come without its casualties. The Ducks lost star running back De'Anthony Thomas early on to an ankle injury after rolling it on the opening kickoff. He did not return.

"I don't know what really happened," Thomas said. "I'm just waiting to see what happened and staying focused and staying positive."

Even without Thomas, the Ducks rolled along. Byron Marshall picked up the slack in the running game after some early fumbles to accumulate 134 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 19 carries, while freshman Thomas Tyner had 94 yards rushing and a touchdown of his own on 13 carries.

"Both of them played really well," quarterback Marcus Mariota said. "They were hitting the holes that were given to them." After Mariota set the tone with his arm against Tennessee two weeks ago, it was back to Oregon's bread and butter this week with the run game. Even with wet conditions proving problematic, Marshall and Tyner were able to establish themselves as threats going forward, something head coach Mark Helfrich was happy with.

"In those conditions those guys get slippery," Helfrich said. "Thomas and Byron and those other guys get slippery and we have to finish everything that much more with an emphasis on ball security. For the most part, we did a good job."

Mariota wasn't as sharp in the rain, completing only 11 of his 25 pass attempts for 114 yards, but did throw two touchdowns to Josh Huff and Daryle Hawkins. Still, the Ducks managed to run away with a victory despite accumulating only 381 yards of total offense.

"We had trouble catching it," offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. "I think the receivers had more of a problem than Marcus did."

As Erik Skopil and I discussed on our podcast, we expected Oregon to run away with this game, but the final score may have shown something more telling. The Ducks never let off the gas, jumping out to a 41-3 lead by halftime and looked every bit the juggernaut they've become, even with their inefficiencies early on.

Some of that credit has to go to Bralon Addison's stellar game on special teams, returning two punt returns for touchdowns, including one on the Ducks first touch of the third quarter.

"He set the tone for the second half in a big way," Helfrich said.

A little bit was made of the fact that Oregon fans were heard chanting "We want 'Bama," two weeks ago as they dismantled Tennessee, but given the Pac-12's depth this season after a strong non-conference showing, the Ducks might be the best chance the country has in taking down the SEC in the BCS Championship, and they showed it on Saturday. Through four contests, the Oregon offense has looked dominant. The Ducks should handle Colorado on the road next week, setting up an intriguing matchup in Seattle against longtime rival Washington.

Of course, the big question mark going forward is Thomas' health. But, if the Ducks proved anything on Saturday it is that they can insert the next guy off the bench and not miss a beat.

It's too early to tell if Oregon will continue to run roughshod over the rest of their schedule, but at this point they are the team to beat in the Pac-12. There's no doubt the rest of the conference has already taken notice. If the Ducks haven't gotten use to the fact that there's a target on their back, they'll feel it now for sure now.

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