Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio - Wisconsin v Oregon

Kenjon Barner: ‘I was very close’ to leaving for NFL


It was expected that Oregon running back LaMichael James would decide to declare for the NFL draft, a decision that was only prolonged until after the Rose Bowl.

What wasn’t anticipated was the departure of quarterback Darron Thomas to the NFL. And, had Chip Kelly gone to Tampa Bay as the head coach, the Ducks would have in all likelihood fallen from preseason favorites to contend for another Pac-12 title.

As it is, the Ducks still have Kelly and running back Kenjon Barner, who announced earlier this month he would return for another year. Oregon fans know they caught a break keeping one; turns out, they might have caught another break with the other.

Appearing on ESPN’s College Football Live, Barner said that his decision to shun the NFL for one more year was perhaps a lot more difficult than originally assumed.

“I was very close — I was extremely close,” Barner said about going to the NFL.

When asked what made him come back to Oregon, the junior running back offered the following reply:

I made a promise to my mom when I first came to school. I promised her that before I left here that I would finish out my degree. The opportunity presented itself to go to the next level, and obviously that’s something I want to do. I had a great conversation with coach Kelly and coach (Gary) Campbell, and I was just praying about it … and ultimately making the right decision in coming back to finish my senior year.”

Kelly has done as good a job as any coach in college football when it comes to actually plugging in any player to his system with minimal drop-off. Barner has already has 1,856 rushing yards over his three-year career in Eugene. Combine his productivity with new quarterback Bryan Bennett — we’re assuming Bennett will take control of the offense despite what Kelly will eventually say in spring practice — and Oregon looks like they’re in another good position for 2012.

It’s keeping Kelly around that now has the main focus of the school.

(Tip of the cap: Eugene Register-Guard

Alabama loses star safety/ace returner Eddie Jackson to broken leg

Alabama defensive back Eddie Jackson (4) returns a punt for a 79-yard touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Knoxville, Tenn. Alabama won 49-10. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
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Alabama’s win over Texas A&M came at a steep cost to both its defense and special teams.

Early in the fourth quarter of the 33-14 win, Eddie Jackson sustained an injury to his left leg and did not return.  Following the game, head coach Nick Saban confirmed that Jackson had suffered a broken leg.

As a result, both the senior’s season and his career have come to an abrupt end.

“Eddie was a fantastic player for us and a great leader,” the coach said in quotes distributed by the school. “I think he was an All-American player as a safety, at least in my book. We’re certainly going to miss him, but what a great player, what a great competitor, and what a great guy to have in this program for the time he’s been here.

“He’s done a fantastic job for us and I’m just sick for him and his family. I hate it that it’s one of the things about sports, all sports, and that we have to deal with sometimes as injuries. It’s unfortunate, especially when it happens to a great guy and a very, very good player. We’re certainly going to miss him.”

The loss of Jackson, who some consider the heart and soul of a very talented Tide defense, is a huge one.

Jackson had started the last 23 games at safety after starting 14 games at cornerback his first two seasons with the Tide.  The past two seasons, Jackson has returned three interceptions for touchdowns.  He’s also one of the best punt returners in the nation, having returned two for touchdowns this season.

Entering the 2016 season, Jackson was widely viewed as a likely first- or second-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft.

Recent retiree Joe Williams runs wild in Utah’s win over UCLA

Utah running back Joe Williams, center, runs for a touchdown as UCLA defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley, left, linebacker Jayon Brown, second from left, and defensive back Jaleel Wadood, right, give chase along with Utah offensive tackle Sam Tevi during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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Apparently the grass can indeed be greener on the other side of retirement.

Two games into the 2016 season, Joe Williams announced his retirement from the sport because of unspecified health issues.  Less than four weeks later, the senior running back returned to a Utah squad just last week because of a backfield decimated by injury.

In his first game post-retirement, Williams ran for 179 yards in a win over Oregon State last Saturday.  A week later, Williams trumped that effort.

In the Week 8 win over UCLA, Williams ran for a career-high 332 yards and four touchdowns as Utah kept pace with Colorado in the Pac-12 South.  Williams had entered his brief retirement with 549 career rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns; the past two games, the senior has totaled 511 yards and five touchdowns.

Not surprisingly, Williams’ Week 8 performance set a couple of school records.

The win allowed Utah to keep pace with Colorado, with both the Utes and Buffaloes, thanks to a 10-5 win over Stanford, sitting at 4-1 in Pac-12 South play. Those two teams will meet in the regular-season finale in a game that could very well determine which team represents the division in the conference championship game.

USC, which handed Colorado its lone league loss, could also be factor in the divisional race as they sit at 3-2 on a bye this weekend.

Auburn running all over and around Arkansas, 28-3

AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 22: A young fan of the Auburn Tigers cheers as the team takes the field before the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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It took one play for Auburn to put some points on the scoreboard, and the Tigers have yet to look back on Arkansas. Auburn holds a decisive 28-3 lead on the Razorbacks at the half. Auburn has run for 268 yards to just 26 yards on the ground by Arkansas.

Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen left the game in the first half with an apparent knee injury. He was helped off the field and replaced with redshirt freshman Ty Storey. Allen did return to the game.

Eli Stove (85 yards) took off for a 78-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play Auburn got to run after Arkansas was forced to punt on the game’s opening possession. Auburn’s second touchdown drive took a little longer (10-plays, 91 yards). Kamryn Petway (117 yards) finished off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead. Arkansas fumbled away the ensuing possession after just three plays, and Auburn capitalized with a Stanton Truitt touchdown run from 20 yards out.

It’s just been a mess of a first half by Arkansas, and the bad news is there is a second half to play.

No. 1 Alabama roars back in the second half to beat No. 6 Texas A&M

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 22:  Jalen Hurts #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks to pass against the Texas A&M Aggies at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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No. 1 Alabama hit Texas A&M in the mouth and the sixth-ranked Aggies responded to take a second half lead on Saturday. Then Alabama hit them again.

And again. And again. And probably another time for good measure.

The Crimson Tide stormed back from a one point second half deficit to throttle yet another top 25 opponent on Saturday, reaffirming their status as the team to beat for the national title with an impressive 33-14 home win.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts started off a little slow and had a handful of freshman mistakes (two picks, one on a Hail Mary) but turned things up after halftime to finish with 166 yards passing and two touchdowns while rushing for another 91 yards and a score. Tight end O.J. Howard became a big part of the Tide’s aerial attack and wound up with a team-leading 70 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore Damien Harris chipped in with 128 yards on the ground with an impressive 7.5 yards a carry.

Texas A&M signal-caller Trevor Knight couldn’t quite get his second straight win over Alabama, but did throw for two touchdowns to temporarily stun Bryant Denny Stadium with a brief 14-13 Aggies lead coming out of the locker room at halftime.

Defensive end Jonathan Allen completely turned the game around just before the end of the third quarter however when he scooped and scored on a 30 yard fumble return to put Alabama up by two scores. It was the future first rounder’s second time crossing the goal line this season, the ninth defensive touchdown of the year for the Tide and the 10th straight game in which the team has scored a non-offensive touchdown.

If there was one negative for Alabama to emerge from the contest in the second half it was that safety Eddie Jackson had to be carted off early in the fourth quarter with a lower leg injury. He was hurt on a punt return that later setup another touchdown and comes at the one spot where the Tide, all things being relative, is a little thin at.

It probably won’t mean much in the long run given how good Alabama looked down the stretch in winning their 20th straight game. They’ll head into their bye week undefeated and looking to get a little rest before traveling to Baton Rouge to play rival LSU. Texas A&M probably won’t drop too much in the polls with their first loss of the season and, while they are a long shot to win the SEC West, remain in line to make it to a New Year’s Six bowl game.