Seeing LaMichael James' injury against Cal was scary because it was a gruesome injury, and he is our star. Seeing Darron Thomas grab his knee against Arizona State was scarier, because we've read this story before: team plays great, team plays really great, gangly spread wizard goes down, Tako gets drunk and throws up, Cody Kempt gets involved, and you end up in El Paso, Texas. I've seen that movie, and it's a bigger downer than Requiem for a Dream. No thank you. And not only did DT go down, he went down in a close game, in a crucial quarter. Did I think all hope was lost? No. Did I immediately pound my whiskey and 7-Up and order another. Yes I did.
Enter Bryan Bennett. Two mop-up games of experience. Thirteen pass attempts. And yet he takes the field with what I can only assume is this look on his face. His first full drive comes with Oregon trailing by three points. Sixty-eight yards, touchdown. After an ASU three-and-out, he gets the ball back on his own 12 yard line. Eighty-eight yards, touchdown. Kid got game.
Darron Thomas expects to play Saturday against the Buffaloes, but this game presents a great opportunity for Bryan Bennett to make his first career start as a Duck. Colorado gave up 52 points and 526 yards of offense to washington last week, and that was with leading tackler Douglas Rippy, who tore ligaments in his knee against the huskies and will miss the rest of the season. The Buffs have lost a total of six defensive backs, four to suspension and two to injury. A depleted secondary offers a chance for BB to really put in work in the passing game, something he did not do against the Sun Devils. A gimpy DT might still be the best quarterback, but Bryan Bennett, Starting Quarterback, is the right move for both his development and for the overall success of Ducks, both this season and beyond.
Like Thomas, LaMichael James seems anxious to play, and confident in his health. But again I ask: why risk it? Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas, and the rest of the gang ran for 327 yards against arguably the best front seven in the Pac-12. There's no reason why they couldn't put up at least that much on the ground against Colorado. LMJ will suit up for Saturday's game, but I hope we put him in a big glass box with "Break in case of emergency" written on it. At the very least, an imaginary glass box, though that would depend on LMJ's skills as a mime.
Colorado's offense has been decimated by injuries just as badly as their defense. Leading wide receiver Paul Richardson has been out since before the Stanford game with a knee injury, and he will be joined there by leading rusher (and second-leading receiver) Rodney Stewart and receiver Kyle Cefalo, who both suffered sprained knees against the huskies. Starting running back duties fall to redshirt freshman Tony Jones, who has 31 carries for 113 yards in his career. Sophomore Josh Ford takes over as the #2 back, with true freshman Malcolm Creer ready to burn his redshirt if needed. Colorado's receiving leader among active players is senior Toney Clemons, with Jones and tight end Ryan Deehan tied for second with 12 catches each. Quarterback Tyler Hanson has been an accurate and intelligent passer thus far this season, throwing 13 touchdowns against only three interceptions, but a severe lack of weapons will hinder his ability to find guys to throw to.
Colorado's gameplan will be a similar, albiet slower and less sexy, version of Arizona State's philosophy; short passes, screens, and ball control are the name of the game. Injured RB Rodney Stewart has 28 receptions on the year, coming mostly on screen plays. Look for Nick Alliotti's defense to key in on RB Tony Jones, and to guard heavily against the short to intermediate pass game. With Cliff Harris seeing more time, and John Boyett as a safety valve, the Ducks should stack up the line of scrimmage, and challenge the Buffs to throw deep.
With both teams at full strength, Oregon would have a huge talent advantage on both sides of the ball. Even with the possibility of James and Thomas being out, Colorado's injuries are greater in quantity, and the Buffs lack the depth to sufficiently replace their injured players. It could be worse, Colorado fans; the game could be at Autzen.