Locker Room Report - Washington State

At many points it was a sloppy game, but the No. 7 ranked Oregon Ducks (7-1, 5-0) still managed to post a 43-28 victory on the lowly Washington State Cougars on Saturday afternoon in Eugene, OR.

(PHOTO) Oregon Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas (5) looks for a receiver against the Washington State Cougars during the first half at Autzen Stadium. The Ducks beat the Cougars 43-28.

The game marked the return of the Ducks offensive lynchpins, quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James. However, both were far from fine tuned, with James struggling to find his rhythm on the ground and Thomas lofting a couple of interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown at the end of the first half.

Thomas was replaced by freshman Bryan Bennett, who threw for two touchdowns on four completions in the second half. Much was made of Bennett's presence in the press room afterwards, suggesting a controversy behind center.

While head coach Chip Kelly remained ambiguous when asked who the starting quarterback was, both James and Thomas emphatically stated afterwards that Thomas is still the starter.

Thomas said that he was told after the end of the first half by offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich that Bennett would be taking over. Kelly added that he did not pull Thomas for performance reasons, but rather that he wasn't planting his feet. Thomas admitted to having difficulty moving around due to his new brace, but had no objections to Bennett entering the game.

"I'm a team player," he said. "I want this team to win. I don't want to lose no games."

Bennett said afterwards that he was surprised when he was told he was going into the game and that he had to mentally prepare in a hurry in order to stay calm on the field. He remained humble afterwards, but offered no insight into whether or not he would play at Washington next weekend.

James finished with 53 yards on 13 carries and said that he needed more reps before he can look like his former self. The carries were hard to come since junior Kenjon Barner rushed for 107 yards on 11 carries, his third straight game with at least 100 yards.

On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Nick Alioti said he was pleased with his defense's performance despite the Cougars outgaining the Ducks 462- 454.

"Yards don't beat you, points do," he said.

Aliotti said that time played a factor in the defense's performance as they spent 22 minutes on the field in the first half thanks to a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and Thomas' two interceptions. However, two key interceptions deep in Oregon territory kept the momentum in the Ducks favor.

"We're 7-1," Aliotti said. "Bottom line is, we won."

The Ducks now enter the home stretch of their schedule, traveling up to Seattle next weekend to take on the Huskies. After that is the Ducks final road test of the regular season against No. 6 Stanford.

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