Oregon’s Kenjon Barner stamped his name into the record books, while also cementing his status as the unquestioned Heisman Trophy front-runner with Saturday night’s record-setting performance against USC.
The speedy senior running back treated a national audience to a show to remember at the LA Coliseum, goring a stout Trojans defense for a school-record 321 yards and five touchdowns on 38 carries to fuel the Ducks’ 62-51 victory.
He’d best starting making plans now to be in New York City the first weekend of December.
“It would absolutely be meaningful,” he told ESPN.com. “Who doesn’t want to get invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony?”
Barner did his part to make certain, scoring on electrifying runs of 27, 5, 9, 5 and 22 yard, totaling 169 yards at halftime and 250 yards prior to the start of the fourth quarter. Of his 38 carries, he lost yardage on only one.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound senior now has 1,295 yards on the ground, and his 143.88 yards per game would have ranked second last week. He now averages 7.23 yards per carry and has scored 19 touchdowns, numbers that will rank among the very best in the nation this week.
He’ll still have to overcome critics who say his numbers are inflated against sub-par defenses in the much-maligned Pac 12. The conference doesn’t list a single team among the nation’s Top 20 in total defense as of last week.
But that hardly mattered Saturday night as Barner’s 321-yard effort eclipsed the school’s previous single-game mark of 288 set just last year by former teammate LaMichael James and the previous highest total ever at the expense of a Southern Cal team.
James, who now plays for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, came away impressed after watching the game along the sidelines.
“I think that he’s the best player – that’s singular, not plural,” he said. “I think he deserves the Heisman. He should be right up there with everyone else. He’s been doing it day in and day out. If they weren’t beating people so bad, he’d probably have 2,000 yards right now. He’s great.”
Barner, who also caught two passes for 26 yards, including a 12-yard reception that converted a key third down in the fourth quarter, entered the game ranked 10th in the nation in rushing.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it,” he said. “People doubt, I don’t. I know what I’m capable of. I know what this team is capable of.”
With the win, the Ducks remain undefeated at 9-0 and steaming towards a possible national championship showdown with top-ranked Alabama.
Said Barner, “I feel like we’re the best team in the country on any night.”
And he may be the best player.