Sunday, September 29, 2013
Marshall stars in Thomas’ absence
By Craig Murphy
Special to ESPN.com
EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon's main two offensive weapons had subpar nights -- or in the case of one, no night at all.
No matter. Other players, most notably running back Byron Marshall, filled the gap admirably.
When junior De'Anthony Thomas went down after injuring an ankle on the opening kickoff against Cal on Saturday night at Autzen Stadium, Marshall was tabbed to fill the role.
Marshall, a sophomore, made the most of the opportunity, rushing 19 times for 130 yards and two touchdowns as the Ducks cruised to a 55-16 win.
"I wasn't expecting that much time in the first half," Marshall said. "But I can't control that. De'Anthony went down early, unfortunately. I just had to hop in and play the best I could."
His first score of the night, a 14-yard untouched scamper with 13:27 left in the opening quarter, put the Ducks up 6-0 and opened the floodgates on a soggy night.
Marshall's second touchdown was good for 25 yards, making it 27-0 with 2:57 remaining in the opening quarter. On both runs, Marshall ran in nearly untouched.
"They were pretty much the same play," Marshall said of his two touchdown runs. "It was a sweep to the left side. Bralon [Addison] was on the edge blocking the DBs. I just found a block and ran."
Marshall's play more than offset an off game -- by his standards -- for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who finished the night 11-of-25 for 114 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to 37 yards rushing and another touchdown.
It wasn't just Marshall lending a helping hand. Addison returned two punts for touchdowns, running for 75 and 67 yards, respectively. Addison also had three catches for 13 yards.
"We've got a few of those guys that can make things happen," said Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, as the Ducks improved to 4-0 in the Pac-12 conference opener for both teams.
Helfrich said there wasn't a set number of touches planned for Marshall had it not been for Thomas' injury.
"We had packages for him," Helfrich said. "We've been talking about balancing out the touches."
While it was a big night for Marshall, it wasn't faultless. He had a couple of fumbles, both recovered by the Ducks. Oregon, which entered the game as the only team yet to commit a turnover in 2013, did lose two fumbles on the night.
"He needs to control the ball better, but we have a ton of trust in him," Helfrich said.
Marshall acknowledged he needs to keep a tighter grip on the ball.
"No matter what the condition is, it's not OK," Marshall said. "But we still kept possession. You just have to keep playing. I had to make sure I had it in there nice and tight."
Marshall admitted he hadn't played in such wet conditions before, but he enjoyed it.
"It was fun," he said. "It was a different experience. All you can do is go out and play like normal."