Oregon's Kenjon Barner rushes into Heisman Trophy race | College football
Oregon's Kenjon Barner has shown he is one of the best running backs in the country; he leads the Pac-12 with 1,295 rushing yards..
Kenjon Barner modestly said No. 2 Oregon did "pretty well" in its big victory over USC. As for his record-setting effort, the ever-humble running back credited teammates.
So it fell to former Ducks running back — and good friend — LaMichael James to come right out and say it: Barner has shown he is one of the best running backs in the country and deserves late consideration for the Heisman Trophy.
Barner rushed for a school-record 321 yards and scored five touchdowns in the 62-51 victory over the then-No. 18 Trojans on Saturday, a game some observers saw as a preview to the Pac-12 championship.
No one had ever run for more than 241 yards against USC before.
"Kenjon is a phenomenal player. I think he just proved that to everybody, that he's one of the best players in the country," James said. "I think he's the best player. That's not plural, that's singular. And I think he deserves the Heisman. He should be right up there with everybody else."
James, who plays for the NFL San Francisco 49ers, was in Los Angeles for last weekend's game and spoke to reporters afterward. He held the previous rushing record in a game for the Ducks, running for 288 yards on 23 carries last season against Arizona.
"I'm happy that he broke that record. Anytime your best friend can break your record, it means more," James said.
"It's like, 'Man, my record got broken.' But Kenjon broke it, so it's OK."
Barner leads the Pac-12 with an average of 143.89 yards a game, which ranks second in the nation to Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson (149). Barner is averaging 13.33 points, tied for the national lead.
So far this season, Barner has rushed for 1,295 yards, ranking him sixth on the school list for a season.
The explosion against USC is getting the senior increasing national respect. His name is being mentioned by Heisman pundits, joining the likes of quarterbacks Collin Klein of Kansas State, A.J. McCarron of Alabama and Braxton Miller of Ohio State, as well as Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.
"It's a blessing, it's an honor," Barner said. "But I don't really worry about it. I can't worry about that. I can't focus on that right now because there's still a lot of football left and anything can happen."
Oregon is 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the Pac-12 entering Saturday's game at California (3-7, 2-5).
Barner was the Ducks' second-leading rusher, behind James, for the past two seasons. James, who skipped his senior season to enter the NFL draft, is Oregon's career leader with 5,082 rushing yards. He is the first Pac-12 player to have three straight 1,500-yard seasons.
Barner played in the fourth quarter twice in the Ducks' first eight games.
"If they weren't beating teams so bad, I don't know what would happen," James said. "He'd probably have 2,000 yards right now."
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