Barner's big night keeps No. 2 Oregon undefeated
SEATTLE (AP) In the third quarter against Washington State, Oregon running back Kenjon Barner's teammates lifted him high off the ground in celebration of a 10-yard scoring dash.
The touchdown put the No. 2 Ducks up 44-19, capping a four-minute third-quarter rally and all but sealing the 51-26 victory over the Cougars on Saturday night.
Barner, who played last season in the shadow of LaMichael James, had four touchdowns, including an 80-yard scoring run.
The senior running back finished with 195 yards rushing on 20 carries. His yards on the ground were the second-most of his career behind the 201 yards he had against Fresno State earlier this season. He also had three catches for 37 yards and a score.
Oregon (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12), led by only 23-19 at the half, giving the Cougars reason to hope for the upset.
"With our team we know we're going to get everybody's best shot," Barner said. "Credit to Washington State, they played a great first half and did everything they were supposed to be doing in that first half. We're a strong willed team. We know that when we do what we're supposed to be doing and execute no one can stop us."
Oregon remained a spot behind No. 1 Alabama in the AP rankings released on Sunday. The game against the Cougars at Seattle's CenturyLink Field was the first on the road this season for the Ducks.
They return home this week to host Washington, which upset then-No. 8 Stanford on Thursday night. The Huskies popped into the rankings at No. 23 as a result of the victory.
Barner was the Ducks' second-leading rusher behind James, his good friend, for the past two seasons. He ran for 939 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and caught 17 passes for 184 yards and three scores.
So far this season, Barner has rushed for 605 yards and nine touchdowns, while he's caught 11 passes for 111 yards and a TD.
James, a Heisman finalist his sophomore season, announced in January he was leaving Oregon with a year of eligibility left, and was a second-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers.
With his performance against the Cougars, Barner passed Ahmad Rashad for third on Oregon's career touchdown list with 37. He finished with 232 all-purpose yards, giving him 4,541 in his career to move past Ricky Whittle (1992-95) for fifth on Oregon's all-time list.
His 80-yard TD early in the fourth quarter was Oregon's longest play from scrimmage this season.
"That seems like that happens to us a little bit. That's a matter of wearing the other opponent down and I think sometimes our conditioning becomes a weapon for us," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "We've got some guys who can hit some home runs and I though Kenjon played really, really well."
Washington State (2-3, 0-2) was driving with a chance to potentially take the lead before the half. The Cougars reached the Oregon 17 before Dion Jordan, Michael Clay and Wade Keliikipi recorded consecutive sacks that knocked the Cougars back 38 yards and forced a punt.
De'Anthony Thomas capped an 18-play drive to start the second half with a 4-yard dash TD for the Ducks, then Avery Patterson stepped in front of Connor Halliday's pass for Oregon's third interception return for a TD in two games. After Washington State (2-3, 0-2) went three-and-out, Barner scored on a 10-yard run to cap the 21-point spurt in just over 4 minutes.
The Ducks started the second-half with their longest scoring drive by plays of the season, a methodical 18-play march that ate up more than 6 minutes. They ran nine times and threw nine times on the drive and only three times faced third down. The last came from the Cougars 4 when Barner went in motion and the middle opened for quarterback Marcus Mariota to hand off to Thomas, who plowed in for his fifth rushing TD of the season.
Halliday threw for 348 yards and Marquess Wilson had 12 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown to become Washington State's all-time leader in yards receiving. But the Cougars had no ground game finishing with minus-8 net yards rushing. Halliday was sacked seven times.
"I thought that we competed in this game better from start to finish than we've competed in any other game this year and we need to learn from this game and grow from it, but there are a lot of positives in this game," Washington State coach Mike Leach said. "The results aren't what I would like, but I thought the personal effort as far as individual players I thought was the best work we've done during the season."