Ducks rush forward in home opener

It took two possessions, but the Ducks finally got that elusive first down they needed in the first quarter.

After that, they got 16 more — 11 of them coming on the ground — en route to their 38-36 thriller victory over the Purdue Boilermakers. It still wasn’t easy, as the Boilermakers out gained the Ducks 451 yards to 356 and had more first downs than Oregon (24-17).

But it’s a pleasing feeling for head coach Chip Kelly and his team after the circus surrounding the team following running back LeGarrette Blount’s suspension.

Especially because Blount’s replacements did well.

“We played a lot of young guys,” Kelly said, referring to the two redshirt freshmen who ran for a combined 90 yards and a touchdown. “LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner finally got their stride in the second half.”

It was rough going in the first half for Barner, James and senior running back Andre Crenshaw. The three had a total of 21 yards rushing and one touchdown. If it weren’t for quarterback Jeremiah Masoli rushing for 60 yards in the half, Oregon’s rushing attack would have been non-existent.

“LaMichael and Kenjon were both looking at the crowd more than the field at first,” Kelly said. “But then they got their feet set and by the second half things were fine.”

“It feels good,” Crenshaw said. “LaMichael and Kenjon are our sparkplugs. They get us going. Once we started clicking we started looking like the real Oregon. We started running well and we were lights out.”

Oregon went the second straight game without a passing touchdown, but thanks to two touchdowns on defense, it didn’t matter. As for the rushing attack, Masoli led all Oregon rushers with 84 yards and a touchdown, but he could have had 110 yards if it weren’t for the three sacks.

Doesn’t matter, Crenshaw says. Masoli’s running helped clear the ground game for the other guys.

“Masoli opened it up for us,” Crenshaw said. “We build off of each other.”

Now the Ducks can begin preparing for Utah this Saturday without the burden of answering questions about a lackluster offense and a missing running back.

“We’ve moved on from last week,” Kelly said. “I’m just excited for our players because they put in the work … we ran the ball, we got the first downs. After we get one first down the only thing that can stop us is us.”

“The taste never goes away,” Barner said. “But this absolutely helps. It feels great. And next week will definitely be a great game. We will just have to come out, focus, and prepare and do what we got to do.”

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