When a star player goes out with an injury, it’s often cause for panic. The Oregon Ducks obviously would prefer that running back De’Anthony Thomas stay healthy, but if he had to get hurt during the season, suffering an ankle sprain early in the Cal game was the most opportune time to do it.
The Ducks didn’t need Thomas to win big over the Bears last weekend, as Oregon picked up its first Pac-12 North division win in the 55-16 blowout, and they won’t need him this weekend when they take on Colorado.
After hitting rock bottom last season, the Buffaloes are slowly improving. They’re 2-1 overall, and while the Buffs are still winless in conference play, they’re ahead of both USC and Utah in the Pac-12 South. New head coach Mike MacIntyre might be the key to getting Colorado back on track, but that doesn’t mean Colorado is ready to stand up to the Ducks, even without Thomas.
Thomas is one of the most explosive players in college football, but his presence in the Oregon offense is one of quality over quantity. Before his injury, he rushed for 338 yards and six touchdowns on 42 carries — fewer than some of the conference’s quarterbacks. He’s a dangerous returner, currently 10th in the Pac-12 in kickoff return yardage with 116 — on only five returns.
Thomas is known for his big play ability, and while he’s a huge asset to the Ducks, he’s not the only playmaker on their high-powered offense. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has nearly as many rushing yards (295) and rushing touchdowns (5) on half as many carries, and he has also thrown for more than 1,000 yards, with nine touchdowns and no interceptions yet this season.
With Thomas out against Cal last weekend, there was no drop off with backup running back Byron Marshall, who had 130 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Ducks’ freshman Thomas Tyner has also found a spot among the top 20 rushers in the Pac-12.
Later in the season, against tougher conference opponents like Washington (10/12), UCLA (10/26), and Stanford (11/7), the Ducks may need Thomas’ speed and elusiveness as a rusher and returner in order to remain atop the division. Cal and Colorado, though, they can easily beat even with their fastest man on the sidelines.
There’s never a “good” time for a player to get injured, but Thomas wasn’t needed in the win over the Bears, and the Oregon Ducks won’t miss him this weekend at Colorado, which gives Thomas more time to heal before he gets back on the field.
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