Sunday, October 10, 2010

#3 Oregon 43, Washington State 23

LaMichael James scored three touchdowns, including an 84-yard scoring reception, and Oregon shook Washington State in the second half for a 43-23 win on Saturday. But this wasn't the blowout most expected. And whether it was the lingering image of Kenjon Barner being taken to the hospital following a scary collision or the improvement of Washington State, the Ducks made just enough plays to hold off the pesky Cougars.

Oregon (6-0, 3-0) was a 36-point favorite, yet led just 36-23 late in the third quarter. Part of that could have been the scary sight of Barner laying motionless on the field in the first quarter. Barner was flattened on a kickoff return by Washington State's Anthony Carpenter. As Carpenter ran full speed through a block, he collided with Barner, first glancing off Barner's shoulder and then colliding with his helmet.

Barner fumbled and crumpled to the turf. Trainers quickly rushed out and tended to Barner for more than 10 minutes, at one point bringing out a neck brace and backboard. But Barner eventually sat up, walked with assistance to a stretcher and was transported by ambulance to Pullman Regional Hospital where he was listed in stable condition.

Barner wasn't the only injury for the Ducks to deal with. Quarterback Darron Thomas left in the second quarter with a right shoulder injury that he said afterward he could have come back from, but was held out for precautionary reasons. Thomas tried warming up on the sideline, but Kelly decided to rest his starter.

And why not with the way Nate Costa played. Costa led a trio of scoring drives including his own 18-yard TD run early in the second half to give Oregon a 36-17 lead. Costa ran for 84 yards and threw for another 151 on 13 of 15 passing. Jeff Maehl caught 10 passes for 119 yards, including a screen pass he took 34 yards for a touchdown with 11:45 left that sealed the victory.

Cliff Harris added a 67-yard punt return touchdown in the first half, his third punt return score of the season. James finished for 136 yards on 25 carries, more than half those yards coming on two runs against a Washington State defense giving up more than 43 per game.

The Ducks are 6-0 for the first time since 2002, but that 2002 season provides warnings for Oregon. After beating UCLA 31-30 to improve to 6-0, the Ducks dropped six of their final seven, including a 38-17 loss to Wake Forest in the now defunct Seattle Bowl.

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