DALLAS — When the Oregon Ducks step on the AT&T Stadium field on Monday, Darren Carrington won’t be with them.
Carrington, a redshirt-freshman wide receiver, was ruled ineligible for the game after testing positive for marijuana, according to multiple reports, and Oregon confirmed he didn’t travel to Dallas with the team.
But despite the success Carrington has had this season — he’s the team’s second leading receiver — coach Mark Helfrich said he and the players, including redshirt-junior quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, won’t miss a step in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
“We have a bunch of highly skilled guys that are very confident in what they’re doing,” Helfrich said Saturday in Dallas. “Marcus is confident in those guys and we’re confident in those guys.”
When it comes to yardage through the air, Carrington was the second best Duck this season. But he finished fourth on the team in receptions and tied for sixth with four touchdowns. Mariota — who completed 280 passes to a plethora of different targets for 4,121 yards and 40 touchdowns through the Ducks’ first 14 games — will still have talent surrounding him on offense.
Mariota and No. 2 Oregon are set to take on No. 4 OSU on Monday night in the title game in Arlington, Texas, but the Buckeyes’ won’t likely put much weight on Carrington’s absence, since all other Duck receivers totaled 38 touchdowns this season. And that doesn’t include the 3,386 yards and 42 touchdowns Oregon compiled on the ground.
No matter who lines up on the field, the Ducks will have options on offense. OSU sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa said defending Oregon and its playmakers starts with stopping Mariota.
“We’ve just got to limit what Marcus Mariota can do; try to keep him in the pocket, they’re obviously going to spread the ball out all game and they’re going to try to hurry it up,” Bosa said Saturday. “We’re just going to try and keep up with the pace and try and keep him in the pocket.”
But even with Mariota leading the way, and the plethora of playmakers around him, Helfrich and the Ducks are still losing a player in Carrington who totaled 165 yards and two scores in their semifinal win against Florida State on New Year’s Day. Helfrich stressed that Oregon can run plenty of players in and out, and added that isn’t a change from what his team has done throughout the season.
“A bunch of guys, a bunch of guys,” he said. “We have a combination of ways to get a bunch of guys in the game, and that will continue.”
Mariota agreed with his coach, but still noted losing a top playmaker isn’t an ideal situation days away from a championship bout.
“It’s tough, but we’ll have to get the next guy ready and get ready to play,” the Honolulu native said.
With a 13-1 record and having endured ups and downs throughout the season, Helfrich said he has the utmost confidence that his team can continue dealing with adversity, and stressed he doesn’t expect negative backlash from Carrington’s suspension.
“Distractions are distractions if you let them be, and having a loss is a distraction, getting guys injured is a distraction, media is a distraction, winning big is a distraction,” Helfrich said. “And how you manage those things is what matters the most, and our guys have managed them, all those situations, very, very well.”
The Ducks are also expected to be without the services of freshman wide receiver Devon Allen, who was injured ruing the Rose Bowl. Allen totaled 684 yards and seven touchdowns through Oregon’s regular season and the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Kickoff between the Buckeyes and the Ducks is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.