Oregon 'D' holds up its end against Buffaloes

BOULDER, Colo. — Just when it looked like Oregon was poised to hang 50 points on the Colorado Buffaloes in the first half Saturday afternoon, the UO offense took a breather.

After scoring a season-high 29 first-quarter points and racking up 293 yards in the frame, the offense logged just 65 yards and no points in the second.

Not to worry. The defense had a shining performance of its own going and made sure the momentum kept rolling the Ducks' way in a 45-2 triumph in their first Pac-12 Conference trip to Folsom Field.

Linebacker Michael Clay's 32-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter made it 35-0 after Colorado finally had forced a UO punt.

The play highlighted a day in which the Ducks allowed just 231 yards of total offense, well below their season average of 413.8 coming into the game that had them ranked 91st in the country.

CU's only points came when the Buffs tackled punt returner Cliff Harris in the end zone for a safety.

Granted, the beleaguered Buffs (1-7, 0-4) were without top receiver Paul Richardson and starting tailback Rodney Stewart due to injuries. And quarterback Tyler Hansen was knocked out in the second quarter with a concussion.

"It's one of our better performances (defensively)," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "I think they did a real good job. But Colorado's banged up."

The trip to the end zone proved sweet for Clay, who had missed two games with an ankle injury before recording seven tackles in his return against Arizona State last week.

"I was just reading his eyes and he just threw it right to me," Clay said. "I just had to take it to the house and not get caught.

"It felt good to get in the end zone, make a difference for the team."

The 5-foot-11, 225-pound junior made just two tackles on the day, but Kelly said he made his presence felt.

"Michael's one of the real leaders," Kelly said. "He gets everybody lined up on defense. He was probably our top player when he went down."

Plenty of others got in on the defensive mix as the Ducks forced the injury depleted Buffs into several second-and-long and third-and-long situations.

Blitz machine Josh Kaddu had a career-best 10 tackles and two sacks. And Dewitt Stuckey, Kiko Alonso and Ryan Hagen all had sacks.The Ducks have recorded 16 sacks in four conference games after recording only four in three nonconference games.

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KELLY SAID THE DECISION not to play starting quarterback Darron Thomas (knee) and running back LaMichael James (elbow) was a game-time one.

Both of the stars were in uniform and warmed up during pre-game before coaches decided to give them another week to recover. Backup quarterback Bryan Bennett and a host of other running backs, led by Kenjon Barner, made up for the absences in impressive fashion.

"We feel real fortunate at the quarterback spot, and it's the same thing at the running back spot," Kelly said. "Now there's some other positions where the depth issues can really cause some problems for us. But right now at running back and quarterback we feel confident going three deep or actually at running back going four deep."

Thomas' absence ended his streak of 19 starts in a row.

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BARNER RUSHED FOR 115 yards and two scores on 10 carries — including 99 yards in the first quarter alone. But a trio of other backs got significant action.

De'Anthony Thomas caught a touchdown pass to pull within one score of tying Derek Loville's 1986 true freshman record of 10 TDs.

Tra Carson rushed for 80 yards and a score on 11 carries, and Ayele Forde notched 54 yards on 12 carries.

"(Forde's) a guy that just gives great effort, and normally he's a scout-team player," said offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, who spent three years at CU in the same position before coming to Oregon. "We try to just let those guys run a little bit."

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CLAY SAID THE DUCKS felt no ill effects from playing at a mile above sea level, though he admitted to being winded on his interception return.

He welcomed the Boulder atmosphere to the Pac-12 mix. A near-capacity crowd of 52,123 attended the game.

"I love this place," Clay said. "I came on a recruiting trip here and I always liked the stadium."

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HERE AND THERE: Oregon entered the game last in the country in time of possession at 24 minutes, 42 seconds per game. They held the ball for just 23:03 Saturday, with their longest scoring drive lasting just 2:20 ... Asked what Harris should have done on the punt return on which he was tackled for a safety, Kelley replied: "Not catch it. We don't field punts inside the 10." ... Punter Jackson Rice tied his career long with a 61-yard boot in the second quarter ... Kicker Alejandro Maldonado saw his string of 38 straight made PATs end after a miss on Oregon's fifth touchdown ... Oregon and Colorado played in the first college football game ever televised by ESPN, a 33-19 Ducks win on Sept. 8, 1979 ... The overall series is now tied 8-8.

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