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    Downs & Distance

    Kenjon Barner making late Heisman push

    Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, top, could make a late run at the Heisman Trophy.
    Bret Hartman/AP
    Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, top, could make a late run at the Heisman Trophy.

    Jim McBride’s four items of interest on this week’s college football landscape:

    Thriller night

    Before we get too deep into this week’s games, there was one game last week that deserves a second look — OK, maybe two games, if you include the triple-overtime thriller in South Bend, Ind., in which Notre Dame escaped with a win over Pitt. But we’re talking about Alabama-LSU in Death Valley. This game proved two things: Tigers coach Les Miles isn’t always the lucky one and Tide QB A.J. McCarron is one cool customer. Miles (a.k.a. the Mad Hatter) came up empty on all of his gambles (fake field goal, onside kick, going for it on fourth down) yet his team still clung to a 3-point lead with 1:34 left after a missed field goal. That’s when McCarron took over and led his team on a 72-yard drive with no timeouts (he was 5 for 5), delivering the winning TD pass with 51 seconds left.

    Make way for Duck

    There have been a lot of high-flying Ducks coming out of Eugene, Ore., the last few years but none have flown higher than Kenjon Barner this season. The 5-foot-11-inch, 192-pound senior, who had to play second fiddle to LaMichael James until this season, is making a late Heisman push after his tremendous performance against Southern Cal last week. Barner rushed for a school-record 321 yards (which, I think, is also the number of uniform combinations the Ducks feature) and scored five touchdowns in the 62-51 win. Barner is second in the country in rushing average (149.89 yards per game) and is tied for tops in the nation at 13.33 points per game. The pre-journalism major (wait, that’s a major?) will be back in his native California Saturday to face the Cal Bears.

    Do-it-all defender


    Does the name Kyle Van Noy ring a bell? Put your hand down if you were going to say Kramer’s mythical medical character in “Seinfeld.” That was Dr. Van Nostrand. Van Noy is the standout linebacker for Brigham Young who last season became the first player in FBS history to earn a stat in every major defensive category: tackle, tackle for loss, sack, interception, pass breakup, QB hurry, forced fumble, fumble recovery, blocked kick, and touchdown. Even more impressive is the fact that Van Noy is just a fumble recovery away from pulling off the feat again. And even more impressive is that Van Noy is playing this year after having reconstructive shoulder surgery in the offseason. The junior likely won’t get the chance to turn the trick a third time, as the NFL is beckoning.

    Flying freshman

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    Kudos are in order for Saint Anselm freshman Andrew Murphy of Franklin via Bishop Feehan. The 6-foot, 180-pound Murphy, who has earned Northeast-10 Rookie of the Week honors five times, completed 45 of 74 passes for a school-record 612 yards and a school-record seven TD passes in a 52-45 win over Seton Hill last week. For the season, Murphy has thrown for 2,148 yards (268.5 per game) and 22 TDs. This week, the Hawks face Merrimack in the Northeast-10’s first Championship Weekend. The Warriors have a pretty good QB, too, in Newburyport’s Joe Clancy, who is third in Division 2 with 3,480 passing yards. He also has 26 scoring strikes. In fact, Clancy threw seven TD passes in a game this year. The opponent? Saint Anselm. Apparently young Murphy was taking notes.

    Jim McBride can be reached at