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If Auburn stops James, Oregon has Barner
Question of the Day
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. (AP) - Oregon has been known to use both LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner at the same time, but whether that’s the intention against Auburn, Barner was mum.
“You’ll have to wait and see,” he smiled.
That was about the only thing that Barner wouldn’t talk about Friday, when the team met the media in advance of the BCS title game between the No. 1 Tigers and the No. 2 Ducks. He even did the Dougie dance for a reporter.
Even if Oregon doesn’t use their two sophomore running backs in tandem, Barner could prove problematic for Auburn because he is as speedy as James _ meaning that the Tigers won’t catch a break if James takes a rest.
Barner was clearly enjoying himself in Arizona after a strange season.
He was the starter at running back for the opener against New Mexico while James, his best friend and roommate, served a one-game suspension for trouble in the offseason.
Barner made the most of his opportunity, running for four touchdowns and catching another score. His performance was so strong some even suggested the Ducks could have a real dilemma if James got off to a slow start.
That wasn’t the case, so Barner settled into his role as backup with dual duty on special teams.
Everything changed on Oct. 9.
Barner was flattened on a kickoff return by Washington State’s Anthony Carpenter. He was motionless on the ground for a long while, his parents rushing to his side as an ambulance pulled up. James hid his expression with a towel over his head.
Barner went to a hospital in Pullman, then was treated further when he got back to Oregon. James showed him the clip of the hit on YouTube when he was still in the hospital. Barner remembered none of it.
Barner suffered a serious concussion _ so bad that he had absolutely no memories of anything in the game except for taking the field. The headaches were excruciating.
Amazingly, he only missed two games before he came back. Now headache-free, Barner has 519 yards and six touchdowns this season. He has 965 all-purpose yards, including two touchdown receptions and one punt return for a score.
“It makes me appreciate not only football, but life,” he said. “Especially from my position because it could have been worse. It was definitely an eye-opening experience. Coming back and playing football is something I cherish.”
He and James have always wanted to have a big game together. It finally happened in the regular season finale, where the two combined for 267 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-20 victory over rival Oregon State that assured the Ducks a place in the national championship game.
By Scott Pinsker
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