By now, you've likely heard of the Oregon Ducks. The team with the funky uniforms, fast-paced offense, and dynamic Heisman Trophy candidate by the name of LaMichael James. You may have even heard of Darron Thomas, the guy replacing Jeremiah Masoli at the quarterback position for the Ducks entering the 2010 season. However, unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool superfan of that number one ranked team from Eugene, you've likely never heard of senior running back, Remene Alston.
Overshadowed by the tremendous performances by Thomas (who threw for a career-high 308 yards and 3 touchdowns on 22-of-31 passing) and James (who rushed for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 carries) in Oregon's 60-13 trouncing of the UCLA Bruins Thursday night at Autzen Stadium was Alston's impressive performance in limited action.
"I talked to him in pre-game and he knew he was going to have a big night," said Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.
"He just said, ‘Hey, give me a chance.'"
On a mere eight carries, Alston got his chance. The Greensboro, North Carolina native compiled 75 yards while finding pay dirt on three separate occasions -- once in the first quarter and twice in the fourth to further extend Oregon's already insurmountable lead. When James left the game early in the first half after getting the wind knocked out of him, the offense skipped nary a beat, as the coaching staff and players had the utmost confidence in Alston's abilities.
"He's a kid who's a fifth year senior and has been a great leader," said Oregon head coach Chip Kelly after his team's victory. "He's the captain of the running backs and to see him come in there and play the way he did and rip off a couple of runs like that was awesome to see."
Alston's 42 yard scamper early in the fourth quarter tied with Jeff Maehl's reception in the third quarter for the Ducks' longest play from scrimmage on the day. For Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, Alston's lengthy run incapsulated his outstanding effort Thursday night.
"That play down the sideline was great," remarked Helfrich. "That was also a great play by Nate (Costa) of selling the play action fake off of that and carrying the safety out with him. Rem had a chance to make a guy miss at the line of scrimmage and cut it outside, then cut it back. It was great persistence and perseverance."
Alston's unrelenting running style, however, was something that wasn't always on display early in his career. Largely buried on the depth chart for the five years he's been in Eugene, Oregon, running backs coach Gary Campbell says that Alston had to work on being a more physical and determined running back.
"I recruited Remene personally," said Campbell, "and my main thing with him was letting him know that he's gotta start staying on his feet. You've gotta make a determination that you're not going to stumble and fall and he's done a much better job of that."
Oregon senior center Jordan Holmes is one player who has certainly taken notice of Alston's improvement. On a night where the Ducks' played arguably their most complete game of the season, Holmes believed Alston put together one of his most complete games as a collegian, calling the performance "exciting".
"I love watching Remene run," said Holmes. "I came in with Rem (as freshmen) and he hasn't gotten a lot of time, but when he gets in there he makes it count. It's always fun to see guys who don't exactly get the most notoriety come out and make big plays. It's cool to see."
Universally known and accepted as one of the most personable and popular players on the team, according to Helfrich, Alston exuded joy and genuine satisfaction in talking about being able to contribute in a big way in this his final season.
"I was just happy to have the opportunity to play," beamed Alston. "I'm out there with Max (Forer), C.E. (Kaiser), Jordan, Bo (Thran), and Nate...I love those guys. We all came in together, so we're already kind of meshed. Just to share that opportunity with them out on the field with each other is just special."
"I hope our play shows out on the field that we're having fun," said Alston. "When we have fun, everything else becomes second nature I suppose."
Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney
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