Oregon junior running back Royce Freeman, who left Saturday's 35-32 loss at Nebraska in the first quarter with a lower leg injury, is expected to make a full recovery and return sooner rather than later, according to sources.
However, his status remains up in the air for Oregon's game Saturday at home against Colorado (2-1). Further medical evaluations will determine his availability for the game vs. the Buffaloes.
Freeman, who two weeks ago rushed for 207 yards against Virginia, was off to a good start against the Cornhuskers with 31 yards on five carries before exiting the game. He could be seen on the Oregon sideline with his right shin wrapped in ice and being attended to by trainers.
Freeman later left the field for the locker room before returning in street clothes and on crutches.
"I don't think he felt like he could return," Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell said Saturday after the loss.
Doctors and trainers evaluated Freeman and made the same determination, according to Campbell.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said Sunday night that he had no concrete information on the health of several players, including Freeman, left tackle Tyrell Crosby and wide receiver Devon Allen, who left the game late with what appeared to be a leg injury. Oregon typically does not release injury information.
Oregon's running game did not skip a beat in the absence of their best running back. Redshirt junior Kani Benoit, redshirt sophomore Tony Brooks-James and sophomore Taj Griffin cut loose for a combined 205 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 21 carries.
- Benoit had 100 yards on six carries with a long of 46 and a touchdown run of 41 yards.
- Griffin carried the ball eight times for 71 yards with a long of 50 coming on a touchdown run.
- Brooks-James scored three touchdowns while carrying the ball seven times for 37 yards.
"As you can see, (Campbell) can throw in any of us in and we can make plays," Benoit said.
Benoit said that Freeman maybe missing time won't change the running backs' mentality.
"The running backs are really competitive so we have the same mentality and we're all trying to make each other better," Benoit said. "And we're all brothers back there. We care about each other. We care when each one of us does good. So we will have the same exact mentality back there that we do every week. I don't think that will change."
Campbell said the backup running backs each have their own strengths.
"I've got confidence in all three running the offense," Campbell said.
As does offensive coordinator Matt Lubick.
"We don't like it when Royce goes out but we have really good about the guys behind him," Lubick said. "I think those guys all showed that they can do really good things,.We knew that coming into the game."