Oregon running back LaMichael James was having a career night against Cal with 30 rushes for 239 yards and a touchdown.
But a painful-looking elbow injury early in the fourth quarter as a result of an awkward tackle could have nearly ended James’ career in Eugene. James laid on the ground for several minutes, wincing in obvious pain before he was carted off the field with a cast on his right arm.
Watching the injury on replay was tough, and perhaps a little nauseating for those with a weak stomach.
We won’t know the diagnosis right away, or how long James will be out – James says the elbow isn’t broken and ‘not a season-ending injury and I’ll be fine’ – but the injury could be a huge blow to this Oregon team which depended on him for leadership and experience. From an individual perspective, James was having a Heisman-like performance tonight during a game that occupied the college football spotlight. After a slow start in Oregon’s season-opening loss against LSU, James was launching himself back into serious Heisman contention.
Prior to tonight’s game, James led the country in rushing yards per game with 153. He had 166 in the first half of an eventual 43-15 win by the No. 9 Ducks.
Going forward, and depending on James’ timeline for return (if there is a return), the Ducks need to be able to rebound quickly with a game against Arizona State next week. Beyond that, Oregon has enough offensive firepower to get through conference play until the big Nov. 12 showdown at Stanford.
The question will be whether running backs Kenjon Barner and freshman DeAnthony Thomas can take on bigger roles and keep the Ducks’ ground game from missing a beat. Barner did a nice job filling in for James in Oregon’s season opener last year, and Thomas has shown his versatility this season.
Going on the road to play Stanford was already projected to be the toughest game of the year for Oregon. If they have to play without James, it’ll be even more difficult, but Chip Kelly‘s team has the talent to get it done.
New SMU head coach Sonny Dykes has been busy assembling his staff as he prepares to jump right in the saddle to coach the Mustangs in the Frisco Bowl next week, but he will have one holdover from the previous staff to help call the shots on offense. Graduate assistant GJ Kinne will call the offensive plays for the bowl game, according to Adam Grosbard of The Dallas Morning News.
This would seem to be the most logical choice for Dykes to make in this scenario. Kinne has been working in the SMU system all season long under former head coach Chad Morris, who has moved to Arkansas with a handful of assistants. Having the most experience with the current roster and a better comfort level makes sense to have Kinne take on this responsibility so close to the bowl game. This will be a major promotion for Kinne, the former Tulsa quarterback, even if just for one game.
“I certainly trust G.J. It’s going to be fun to give him an opportunity to be highly involved and it’ll be one of those things he remembers for the rest of his life,” Dykes said of the decision to have Kinne calling the offense from above. “When you’re a GA and you get to call a bowl game, it’s a pretty awesome opportunity.”
Just how smoothly this all goes is anyone’s guess. Fortunately, if things go awry, Kinne and Dykes can always just resort to going back to a chuck-it-deep mentality and see what happens.
SMU faces Louisiana Tech in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 20.
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi may have been signed to a contract extension recently, but the Panthers are quickly getting shallow at the quarterback spot on the depth chart for 2018. For the second time in as many days, Pitt is losing a quarterback to a transfer.
Ben DiNucci is the most recent of the two to announce his decision to leave the program. Though DiNucci did not say where he is heading next, he did say in a brief message on Twitter he will be enrolling in January. He will have two years of eligibility to use, although he would have to sit out the 2018 season if he transfers to another FBS program. He would be eligible to play right away if he transfers to a lower division football program. A report from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggests the latter will be the case, with James Madison and Towson the two leading candidates to add DiNucci.
DiNucci was Pittsburgh’s leading passer this season with 1,091 yards and five touchdowns, although he was used mostly as a backup for Max Browne until Browne was injured after appearing in six games. DiNucci also added 126 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown, which came in Week 2 against Penn State.
DiNucci’s announcement comes just one day after Thomas MacVittie announced his own decision to leave the Panthers behind. The redshirt freshman did not appear in any games this season and was passed over on the depth chart by freshman Kenny Pickett. Pickett now becomes the top option in the passing game for the Panthers heading into the spring, unless Pitt happens to add a transfer to the mix.
Pitt will have another scholarship quarterback on the way in 2018 with the addition of incoming freshman Nick Patti out of New Jersey. Patti is not expected to be enrolling early, so he will not be around in the spring.
Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman will not play in this weekend’s Las Vegas Bowl, thus bringing his collegiate career to a close before he moves on to the NFL next year. Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal announced Freeman’s lack of availability to reporters today ahead of the bowl game against Boise State.
Freeman played in all 12 games for the Ducks this season, rushing for 1,475 yards and 16 touchdowns. Freeman’s career at Oregon has been a highly productive one under two different coaches. As a freshman in 2014, Freeman rushed for 1,365 yards and 18 touchdowns to quickly begin gaining some national attention as the Ducks advanced to the national championship game in the inaugural season of the College Football Playoff (but some guy named Marcus Mariota was doing some good things too at the time to grab the majority of the national attention).
Freeman rushed for 5,621 yards and 60 touchdowns for Oregon, and he was also responsible for four touchdown receptions.
Freeman will join a growing list following a growing trend of sitting out of a bowl game before moving to the NFL.
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier will be back for another season of football in Morgantown. Grier announced today he will be back in the blue and gold in 2018, his senior season.
Citing a desire to see his team accomplish more next season, Grier said he is “completely focused and looking forward to building off the success” experienced in 2017.
“West Virginia is my home, and I couldn’t be more excited about the future here,” Grier said in his released statement.
Grier’s return to West Virginia will be a boost for the offense next season. In his first year back playing college football after parting ways with Florida amid a drug-related suspension, Grier played in 11 games and passed for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns for the Mountaineers. He was one of three quarterbacks in the Big 12 to average more than 300 passing yards in a game, with the other two being Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. With Mayfield and Rudolph moving on to the NFL next year, Grier will be one of the top offensive players returning to play football in the Big 12 in 2018.