EUGENE — Byron Marshall was an innocent bystander during the Civil War.
Oregon's starting running back missed the regular-season finale with a sprained ankle and watched true freshman Thomas Tyner (140 yards, one touchdown) and De'Anthony Thomas (88 yards, one touchdown) help the Ducks to a 36-35 victory over Oregon State on Nov. 29 at Autzen Stadium.
"I hated it. I love the game, love to play," Marshall said. "But it's always good sometimes to take a step back and watch. Granted, it comes at the expense of not playing, but you just get a different feel for it."
Marshall, who has been stuck on 995 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns since getting injured against Arizona, said he will "definitely" be ready to play in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30 against Texas.
Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell said Marshall remains his starter and is actually more healthy than Tyner, who is dealing with a tight hamstring.
"Right now Thomas is hurt. If we were to start a game and come back tomorrow, I would say Byron Marshall is the starting tailback," Campbell said after Sunday's practice. "(Tyner) has got a tight hammy or something, I think. "» Everybody's a little beat up, all those guys are. Right now I'd say Byron is our starting tailback, and both those guys are capable of starting. I'd say they are A and B, more or less."
And the dynamic Thomas is the X factor. The junior is Oregon's leading kickoff return man (488 yards), fourth-leading rusher (581 yards) and sixth-leading receiver (222 yards) with 10 total touchdowns.
Thomas' season was interrupted with an ankle sprain sustained on the opening kickoff against California, which kept him out of the rest of the win over the Bears, as well as the Ducks' next three games.
"Particularly this year because of the injury situation, I think he could have gotten a lot more out of himself," Campbell said. "Unfortunately he was injured, and I think that kind of hurt where he may be right now."
Thomas will have to decide by Jan. 15 whether to return to Oregon for his senior season or enter the NFL draft.
Campbell has a lot of experience with talented tailbacks being in this position, most recently LaMichael James, who was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers after his junior season.
"De'Anthony hasn't come to me about anything," Campbell said. "When I asked him about it he said he didn't know, hadn't thought about it. "» I'm looking at what's best for him, that's for sure. I wouldn't try to keep a guy in just to help our team out. Obviously, I would like to do that, but I wouldn't do that because those guys have trust in me. I wouldn't deceive them just because of our desire to keep them in the program."
Oregon junior cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is waiting for an official draft evaluation from the NFL before making a decision about his future. The Walter Camp All-American is a top-20 prospect for 2014, according to Scouts Inc.
"I really just want to make sure that I'm just ready to leave," Ekpre-Olomu said. "That's going to be the main thing for me. I'm still young, and it's going to be difficult, I think, for me being 20 years old, getting ready to play in the NFL."
Texas to do it for Mack
Mack Brown, after weeks of speculation, announced during a press conference on Sunday that the Alamo Bowl will be his finale as Texas' head coach.
The Ducks were already anticipating a hostile crowd at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Now the Longhorns will have the added motivation of sending Brown out on a winning note.
"I'm sure they will be (fired up), just for their purposes, to send him out the right way," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. "Like I said last week, he's an icon. He deserves to go out on his own terms, and hopefully he has. I'm sure they're going to be fired up. "»
"It won't affect what we do necessarily from a preparation standpoint, other than paying homage to a guy who's done so much for college football."
Alamo Bowl officials are expecting a capacity crowd. Texas has sold out its allotment of tickets, and Oregon had sold nearly 7,000 of its 9,500 tickets entering the weekend.
The Ducks are preparing for a true road game with music blaring during practices inside the Moshofsky Center.
"We're getting ready for some crowd noise. From that aspect, the proximity (of San Antonio) to Austin, it'll be a home game (for Texas) in essence," Helfrich said. "We have to have those mechanics ready to go. We know we're going to get their best shot. We need to be fired up to play our game."