The junior went down with a leg injury early in the third quarter of the Ducks 41-27 victory over No. 18 Arizona State, leaving head coach Chip Kelly to call on the services of redshirt freshman quarterback Bryan Bennett.
Bennett finished the ball game and handled the pressure with poise and confidence, even breaking through for a few big runs himself. He finished with 66 yards on five rushes and had only two completions for 22 yards on five attempts.
His performance ensured that Thomas, who returned to the sideline with a brace, wouldn't have to re-enter the ballgame despite lobbying for Kelly to let him back into the game. Bennett said after the game that his role on a fake punt in the first quarter, where he came up just shy of a first down, calmed his nerves and allowed him to settle down. He added that he didn't have time to panic when his number was called and remained focus throughout the second half.
Bennett was lauded by his teammates afterwards, as well as Kelly, for keeping the Ducks ahead against a foe they could meet later on should both teams win their divisions in conference play. Junior offensive lineman Carson York said that if Thomas is unable to go next week that he hopes Bennett will show everyone what he's capable of doing against Colorado. Thomas' status is uncertain at this point for next Saturday's contest on the road in Boulder.
Much was made of sophomore cornerbackCliff Harris' interception near the end of the first half that led to a Ducks touchdown and their first lead as they headed into half. Both, Bennett and sophomore linebacker Boseko Lokombo said that they were happy to see Harris make an impact and make plays similar to a year ago. The play shifted momentum in the Ducks favor and allowed them to build off of it in the second half.
Freshman De'Anthony Thomas continued to make big plays, racking up 203 all-purpose yards and two rushing touchdowns. Thomas said that this was the type of game he had envisioned playing in when he joined the Ducks and credited his high school coach for preparing him to perform at this level. Kelly said that he sees Thomas perform consistently in practice every day and that he wasn't surprised to see him continue to make spectacular plays in the open field.
The Ducks will take on Colorado at 12:30 p.m. next Saturday.