Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October 02, 2013
In our continuing in-depth coverage of Oregon football game day, we add to it this new feature article which looks at a key story line for each game.

As the Ducks head to Colorado for their second conference match-up of the 2013 season, it almost seems as if we are being taken back in time; by two years.

Tom Corno
De'Anthony Thomas' injury is a key storyline for Oregon heading to Boulder
In 2011, a night game at Autzen saw starting quarterback Darron Thomas go down to injury in the first half. Bryan Bennett came into the game as a highly touted back-up who had seen some action, but nothing during the crunch time of a conference game when the intensity of the moment changes the dynamic of performance.

It is one thing to play well when the pressure of the outcome is not heaped upon your shoulders. The experience is valuable and is a very important piece of the reason Oregon has continued to be successful for the last five seasons. Nonetheless, Bennett entered the Arizona State game in the third quarter with the Ducks trailing 24-21 after Thomas' injury.

While Bennett played very well and led the Ducks back to a 41-27 victory, the next game would provide him with a new challenge; starting the game with the expectations laid squarely and solely on his own shoulders.

Adrenaline would not be the same factor as entering a game in the third quarter. That next opponent? Colorado.

Fast forward two years and the Ducks are on an even higher level as an offense scoring 50 points in four consecutive games for the first time in their long football history. The Ducks are heading on the road after a night game. The Ducks suffered an injury in the first half this time to one of their star players.

The opponent? Colorado.

Once again, the Ducks are heavy favorites heading to Colorado. Yet once again they head to Boulder with injury concerns at a critical position.

Fortunately for Oregon, the position, while not entirely deep, has quality depth with Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner both more than capable of reeling off big chunks of yardage against the struggling Colorado defense. Marshall is likely to get the start against the Buffaloes. While he technically started the California game, he had not spent the entire week preparing for that role and simply responded to necessity.

This week will mark the first time that Marshall will spend the week preparing for a game as a starter for the Oregon Ducks. In another twist of coincidence, the player that scored the go ahead touchdown for Arizona State just before Darron Thomas' injry?

That would be Cameron Marshall; Byron's older brother.

There will likely be very little reason for concern in this game. Marcus Mariota is healthy and the Ducks are loaded with weapons all across the field. But the injury bug has been very kind to the Ducks during this historic four-plus season run of success.

De'Anthony Thomas' absence will be the key story line for the Duck heading into Boulder.

The Buffaloes, meanwhile, have seen the return from an injury have a major impact on their offense this season.

Paul Richardson was one of the best receivers in the Pac-12 conference that no one knew about during the 2011 season. But he spent much of that season slowed by injury before an off-season knee injury took away the entire 2012 season.

Richardson has bounced back with a vengeance, though, for the 2013 season. He is the clear best player on a Colorado team that struggled against Oregon State after opening the season with two consecutive wins against lesser opponents.

He has spent considerable time getting faster and becoming a better receiver. His routes are better, and his knowledge of the game, thanks to intense film study are also greatly improved since 2011. It has shown on the field as he has 26 receptions for 487 yards and 5 touchdowns through the first three games for the Buffaloes.

His recovery from injury and re-emergence for the Buffaloes has been a key story line for the Colorado football team early in 2013.


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