Still in the running

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Jonathan Stewart's replacements have Oregon off and running again.

The Ducks' one-two running back punch of LaGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson was too much for Purdue on Saturday, combining for 228 yards on 29 carries in Oregon's 32-26 double-overtime win.

Stewart left Oregon after his junior season as one of the most productive back in school history and became a first-round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers.

But Johnson, who shared time with Stewart last season, and Blount, a junior college transfer, have helped compensate for the loss.

Blount dominated the second half against Purdue. He broke a 72-yard run in the third quarter, then finished the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run. He scored the game-winning touchdown on a 3-yard run in the second overtime and finished with 132 yards and two scores on 12 carries for No. 17 Oregon (3-0).

Asked about the big run in the third quarter, Blount still was focused on the game winner.

"I'm still on cloud nine," he said. "I can't even remember what play it (the long run) was."

Johnson, the starter who is recovering from a shoulder injury, ran for 96 yards on 17 carries.

Blount made the biggest impression. The 6-foot-2, 229-pound junior carried much of the burden in the second half as the Ducks' passing game struggled.

"Even where there wasn't a hole, he made some yardage, and he rarely got tackled by the first guy," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said. "He's a big, strong back that's getting more comfortable with the offense. Jeremiah's not 100 percent healthy, so obviously LaGarrette's role is going to increase."

Johnson, a smaller, quicker back at 5-10 and 200 pounds, likes Blount's punishing style. Blount has gained 285 yards in his first three games.

"Nothing but grateful to have him behind me," Johnson said. "When I went out, he did an excellent job."

Purdue (1-1) failed to score on its possession to start the second overtime, and Blount said the game might as well have ended then.

"I was thinking, 'Oh my God, this game is ours. It's time for us to go home.'"

Through three games, Oregon is averaging 51 points and 562 yards per game. The Ducks are running for 323 yards per contest.

"Our team has unlimited potential," Blount said. "We can do anything we put our minds to. Our offense is almost unstoppable."

Johnson said he's going to be fine soon. He hurt the shoulder the previous week, on the second play against Utah State.

"I'm just out there playing a little sore," he said. "It's OK."

Part of the reason the Ducks relied so heavily on the run Saturday was the struggles in the passing game. Justin Roper completed just 20 of 48 passes for 197 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He wasn't sharp, and the Ducks dropped so many passes that Bellotti couldn't count them all.

"We dropped about five passes and two or three that skipped off ... we might have dropped 10 passes. We have to be better than that."

Roper also suffered a sprained left knee after being tackled on a run in the first overtime, and is expected to miss at least a game.

Johnson and Blount might have to carry an even heavier load when the Ducks play Boise State on Saturday, but that doesn't look like a problem for Oregon.

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