What a difference a week makes.
Seven days after a season-deflating home loss to Stanford, No. 6 Oregon ran by No. 16 Oregon State 48-24 Saturday afternoon in Corvallis, showcasing a powerful running attack and converting sloppy turnovers by the Beavers in the 116th Civil War. Oregon senior running back Kenjon Barner churned out 198 yards, most of them in the first half, and sophomore De’Anthony Thomas added another 122 as Oregon gouged Oregon State for a 6.7 yards-per-carry average.
The win puts Oregon (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) back in the hunt for a fourth-straight Pac-12 Championship, a feat not seen since USC’s five-year dominance in the mid-naughts. Head coach Chip Kelly said there was no secret to bouncing back from the team’s only regular-season loss of the year.
“We ran the same plays we run every week,” Chip Kelly said after the game. “The blocking was just better (today).”
It was all Ducks right from the start. On Oregon’s first offensive possession, redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota took a quarterback draw through a huge hole up the middle before outracing Oregon State’s secondary for a 42-yard touchdown.
“(The play) was a design that the coaches had,” Mariota said. “They came out in a look we had practiced against all week, and it just so happened the offensive line opened a hole, and I got to run through it.”
The quick strike set the early pace of the game and answered questions about how Mariota would perform following his first loss as a starter. The Hawaii native said he enjoyed the Civil War setting, with Reser Stadium packed to the rafters with a school-record 47,249 in attendance.
“You kind of don’t realize it until you step out onto the field,” Mariota said. “It was a fun atmosphere. The fans can be a little rough, but the guys handled it, and it is just one of those atmospheres where you want to play.”
In addition to his 85 yards rushing, Mariota was 17-for-24 through the air, with 140 yards and a touchdown. But with all the holes banged-up offensive line was opening, Mariota didn’t need to do much more than hand the ball off to Kenjon Barner or another Oregon back.
Barner, who ran for more than 100 yards in the first quarter alone, played with looked to be an abdominal injury in the second half. Team personnel, as usual, refused to comment on the injury, only saying it was “minor.”
“Kenjon’s always been a warrior,” Kelly said. “He responds when he’s called upon, and that’s what makes him a special guy.”
Oregon State (8-3, 6-3) would battle back and trail only three in the third quarter. But Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion’s four interceptions proved too costly. Add the special-teams miscues, and it was simply too much for the Beavers to handle. The win was Oregon’s fifth straight in the rivalry.
Grounds for stomping? With Barner on the bench, De’Anthony Thomas played with fire. Tough running inside the tackles compensated for his emotions running high — at one point, Thomas stomped on Oregon State safety Jordan Poyer’s ribs after Poyer laid a hard hit. The ensuing personal foul pushed the Ducks back, but runs of 12 and 17 by Thomas got the Ducks back inside the 10-yard line. The Los Angeles native eventually punched it from five yards out to give Oregon a 27-17 advantage, but the stomp generated significant media attention.
DAT did admit to the stomp after the game: “I just gave a little shot. … I was kind of mad.” #UOvsOSU
— Adam Jude (@A_Jude) November 25, 2012
OK, so no doubt the refs missed a facemask on the DAT penalty.Should have been penalties both ways. DAT’s stomp could get him suspended.
— Jake Zivin (@JakeZivin) November 24, 2012
De’anthony Thomas, why do you gotta stomp people’s ribs in?
— Steven Larson (@KingChameleon23) November 24, 2012
First time I’ve ever seen De’anthony just lose his cool…Momba Stomp
— sam gerwe (@samuel_j_G) November 24, 2012
After the game, Thomas defended his “little shot” by accusing Oregon State players of extra-curricular aggression.
“I was kind of mad there were cheap shots,” Thomas said. “(Players) trying to twist people’s ankles under the pile and stuff like that. I felt like we adapted to that and didn’t let it get to us. We just played Oregon football.” Thomas went on to say he has seen that play against the Ducks before but declined to name teams.
“I guess we’re just Oregon,” Thomas said.
What it means. With Oregon taking care of business, the focus shifts to Los Angeles. Stanford and UCLA play for the second spot in the Pac-12 Championship game. The Bruins have already clinched a spot in the game, and a win over Stanford would send them up to Eugene to play Oregon at Autzen Stadium for the second-consecutive year. If the Cardinal win, however, Oregon would get frozen out of the conference championship and would likely see their small BCS Championship hopes shrink further.
Despite the Ducks’ better overall record, two schools share the same conference record. The Cardinal would get the nod in the event of a tie because of Stanford’s earlier win over Oregon. But don’t expect Chip Kelly or the Ducks to care too much about what happens in California.
“You can’t be scoreboard-watching,” Kelly said. “You have to go out and play. At the same time, you gotta pay attention. We gotta know if we’re practicing tomorrow.”