By Rob Moseley
Overcoming three early fumbles, a constant downpour and an injury to the starter at his position, Oregon sophomore Byron Marshall ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns in the No. 2 Ducks’ 55-16 win over California in Autzen Stadium on Saturday night.
Marshall was pressed into full-time duty at running back for Oregon after starter De’Anthony Thomas was injured on the game’s opening kickoff. Thomas, who was on crutches in the second half and in a walking boot after the game, confirmed an ankle injury but offered little in the way of a future prognosis.
Thomas said he slipped while returning the opening kickoff and “just rolled” his right ankle. The joint was “pretty sore” after the game, pain that prevented him from returning after initially trying to walk it off.
“I’m feeling great,” Thomas said after the game. “Just gotta get back on Sunday, see what’s going on and stay positive, keep working hard.”
Having run for 124 yards on just eight carries in the Ducks’ opener against Nicholls, Marshall had 21 combined carries against Virginia and Tennessee, for 72 yards and a score. On Saturday, Oregon turned to him for 19 carries after Thomas’ injury, and Marshall responded.
“Like I’ve said the whole time, I think my teammates trust me and I think my coaches trust me,” Marshall said. “I’m out there every day just trying to play hard.
“The Virginia game obviously wasn’t my best game, but I’m not really worried about going out there and trying to please other people with how I play. I play the best I can, and some games it’s just not your day.”
Marshall fumbled on his first two carries Saturday, and again on his first reception, for three fumbles in his first four touches against Cal. But one went out of bounds and teammates recovered the other two.
Marshall began the rain-drenched game in his regular pair of gloves, briefly played bare-handed after removing them and then switched to a waterproof pair for the rest of the way.
“It wasn’t necessarily my hands that were the problem, it was my arms,” Marshall said. “My arms were really wet.”
Once he got a handle on the conditions – and the football – Marshall got down to business. His 14-yard touchdown got the Ducks on the scoreboard just 1:33 into the game, and he added a 25-yard scoring run later in the first quarter.
“Everything as there,” Marshall said. “The line played a great game, just dominated Cal.”
Marshall also added three receptions in the game, for 12 yards.
“Byron’s been one of our most improved players all year,” UO offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. “He had a great fall camp; we were expecting great things out of him, and he showed a little bit of what we saw tonight.”
Freshman Thomas Tyner also moved up the depth chart due to Thomas’ injury. Tyner carried 13 times for 94 yards and a touchdown, finding the end zone for the third straight game and fourth time overall.
Like Marshall, Tyner fumbled on his first touch Saturday, Oregon’s first turnover of the season. But he helped carry the load the rest of the way, on a night when circumstances required a big day from the Ducks’ running backs.