The Oregon Ducks outlasted the USC Trojans, 62-51, and seem, at least for the moment, poised to push ahead of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish into third in the BCS standings.
While there are huge questions looming about the Oregon defense, there is no doubt that the Ducks have a Heisman Trophy candidate.
No, it's not De'Anthony Thomas, the guy we were all expecting to insert himself into the debate. Rather, it is the guy who has been a "steady Eddie" all season long. It is the guy who has been Oregon's go-to player. It is the guy who exploded Saturday night as the best player on the field, bar none—Oregon running back Kenjon Barner.
Barner went off. The senior from Riverside, Calif., carried the ball 38 times for 321 yards. Yes. 321 yards against USC's defense. For an Oregon team that put up 730 yards against the Trojans, Barner had 44 percent of those on the ground by himself.
He ran inside. He ran outside. He broke tackles. He out-sprinted defenders to the corner. He juked players. He ran through shoulders. He did everything you want a running back to do when the football is in his hands.
Plus, if the 321 yards on the ground were not enough, five of those 38 carries ended with Barner in the end zone. That's right, five touchdowns—30 points all by himself, just under half of Oregon's total. Kenjon Barner was everything Chip Kelly and the Ducks team thought he could be, and plenty more.
As people search for another quarterback to thrust into the Heisman race, in what feels like an endless quest to sate their passing-stat thirst, Kenjon Barner is the name to hoist. No, he's not a quarterback. No, he isn't some De'Anthony Thomas or Sammy Watkins-type do-everything. No, he's not a Honey Badger.
Kenjon Barner is just a mighty-fine running back who powers one of the nation's best teams. He put up a 321-yard rushing effort, something that helped contribute to the worst day in USC defensive football history.
This is your Heisman candidate from Eugene. This is your leader out of the Pac-12. Hell, as it stands now, Barner is the guy west of Kansas. He's been a high-quality player all season; now is the time to give him his due.
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