A fringe Heisman Trophy candidate before this past weekend, Oregon running back Kenjon Barner has since vaulted himself squarely into the discussion for who should be invited to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony next month. That's what 38 carries for 321 yards and five touchdowns does for you in your team's biggest game of the season to date. Against USC, Barner wasn't just simply good, he was unstoppable; racking up the most rushing yards in a single game ever by an Oregon running back, eclipsing LaMichael James previous mark of 288 yards set at Arizona last season.
Barner set a school record with 38 carries for 321 yards and five touchdowns at USC this past Saturday.
"He's in such great shape and such great condition, that I think everybody else gets tired, but he doesn't get tired," said Oregon head coach Chip Kelly Monday in assessing Barner's weekend performance.
"Give him all the credit in the world. He has 38 carries [versus USC] and practiced full today...He deserves everything he's getting."
Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich also echoed Kelly's statements, though added that he believed that it was the offense's best game from an overall blocking and execution standpoint.
"It was pretty phenomenal," said Helfrich of Barner's career day. "We watched a couple of his runs and he made maybe one great cut and then had five finished blocks to spring him.
"That's what we try to preach, it's just that team deal...We played our best up front that we have all year and now that's our standard. That's one thing we talked about this morning, too. Our play action, our communication, our identification, all the things we kind of harped on showed up. When you're playing that kind of a talent, you need it to."
Conversely, things such as communication and identification seemed to be lacking from the Ducks on the defensive side of the ball, as Oregon was gashed for 615 yards of total offense by the Trojans on Saturday. Though it's unlikely the Ducks will face a team the rest of the season with the caliber of talent of Matt Barkley, Marqise Lee, Robert Woods, and others, coaches and players acknowledged that improvements need to be made moving forward. For Oregon senior linebacker Michael Clay, it’s all about getting back to basics.
"We just need to go back to our fundamentals," said Clay. "We need to get better at tackling. That was probably the most glaring thing more than anything...Effort wise, we played really hard, we just got to get better at tackling, fundamentals and communicating."