Ducks too much for Colorado
BOULDER, Colo. — Against a team as deep as No. 9 Oregon, Colorado found itself in deep trouble right from the start.
The Ducks bulldozed the injury-riddled Buffaloes 45-2 Saturday in their first trip to Folsom Field since 1987 even though they were playing without Darron Thomas and LaMichael James.
The Ducks lost none of their quick-strike scoring ability without their injured quarterback and running back. Thomas was out with a knee injury and James missed his second straight game while recovering from a dislocated elbow.
Behind redshirt freshman QB Bryan Bennett and junior tailback Kenjon Barner, the Ducks (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12) jumped out to a 29-0 first-quarter lead.
"We have some depth at certain positions and that was a little bit evident today," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "I think our depth wore them down as the game went on."
Actually, right from the start.
Barner reeled off touchdown runs of 4 and 84 yards and Bennett found running back De'Anthony Thomas for a 14-yard touchdown and tight end David Paulson from 31 yards out. The four TD drives averaged just 1:36 each.
None of this was a surprise to Colorado.
"They're a system team, they're going to do what they do," Buffaloes coach Jon Embree said. "I'm not taking anything away from those guys, I think their backups ... it's like going from Joe Montana to Steve Young. They have great depth."
Colorado's only highlight came on a tackle of Oregon punt returner Cliff Harris in the end zone that allowed the Buffaloes to avoid their first shutout at home since losing 28-0 to Oklahoma in 1986.
After a fiery pregame pep talk from James, the nation's leading rusher, the Ducks wasted no time in turning this one into a laugher no matter who was taking the snaps and hand-offs.
"We might have seemed a little flat in warmups and he just wanted to make sure that wasn't going to be a reflection of our play today," Bennett said. "LaMichael's a key player on this team and whether he plays or not, when he says something, people are going to listen."
Barner gained 115 yards on 10 carries before giving way to a bevy of other backups and Bennett added 69 yards on the ground to go with 156 yards through the air on 11 of 20 passing. He, too, was a sideline spectator before the third quarter was over.
Both Barner and Bennett averaged 11.5 yards a carry, but De'Anthony Thomas did them one better, averaging 12.5 yards on his four rushes.
The Folsom Field crowd figured the Ducks were piling on the Buffaloes (1-6, 0-4) right away when punter Jackson Rice took the direct snap after their first touchdown and plowed into the end zone for a 2-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
Embree took no offense.
"They've done that a bunch," he said. "It's not an opponent or respect issue, but that's what Chip does. He's aggressive."
The Ducks' defense got into the act when linebacker Michael Clay intercepted Tyler Hansen's pass at the Buffs 32 and raced into the end zone in the second quarter. Alejandro Maldonado's extra point was wide right, leaving the Ducks ahead 35-0 at halftime.
"We wanted to get it over with really early," Clay said. "I think we did that."
Hansen sustained a concussion when he was sandwiched on a slide hit that didn't draw a flag late in the first half and was replaced by freshman Nick Hirschman.
"I don't really remember a lot from the first half," Hansen said, "but it's got to be tough to play from behind like that. The second half was rough to watch."
The Buffaloes started the game without more than a dozen injured players, most notably running back Rodney Stewart and wide receiver Paul Richardson, who accounted for nearly 60 percent of Colorado's yards from scrimmage before Saturday.
Colorado also lost strong safety Anthony Perkins to an injured ankle just 61/2; minutes into the game and kick returner D.D. Goodson to a concussion.
With so many key players sidelined, the Buffs were hoping something else might slow down the Ducks — altitude. Boulder is nearly 5,000 feet higher than Eugene, making a no-huddle offense a little more lung searing for the speedy Ducks.
"I don't know if anybody else felt it, but I felt it, I hit a brick wall," said Barner, who slowed down at the 5 on his 84-yard TD run.
After halftime, Bennett hit Lavasier Tuinei for 31 yards to the Buffaloes 1, and two snaps later, Tra Carson took it in for a 42-0 lead.
Just as impressive was the Ducks' defense — it allowed just 231 yards and 5 of 19 third-down conversions.
"Our defense played outstanding all day long," Kelly said. "Unfortunately, we couldn't get the shutout."
That's because Terrel Smith corralled Harris in the end zone for a safety with 1:32 left in the third quarter. Kelly said Harris broke the cardinal rule of punt returns.
"We don't field punts inside the 10," he huffed.
And after that, Harris didn't field any punts at all, giving way to Chad Delaney.