EUGENE — Oregon did not get out of the physical victory over California unscathed.
Starting running back CJ Verdell, who left with a sprained ankle after producing 63 yards of offense (46 yards rushing, 17 receiving) in the 17-7 Pac-12 win over the Bears, returned to practice Monday and is expected to play against Colorado.
Starting defensive end Gus Cumberlander, who was carted off the field after suffering a serious left knee injury, is out of the remainder of the season.
The 13th-ranked Ducks (4-1, 2-0) host the Buffaloes (3-2, 1-1) on Friday night at Autzen Stadium.
“CJ practiced today and he looked pretty good,” coach Mario Cristobal said at his Monday news conference. “He looked a lot better than what I expected. I didn’t know exactly what to think coming into today, so feel good about him on (Friday).”
Co-starter Travis Dye had 15 carries for 81 yards (5.4 yards per attempt) against Cal’s stout defense but lost two fumbles in the first half.
Cyrus Habibi-Likio added nine carries for 37 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:38 remaining in the third quarter.
Cristobal said Darrian Felix, who has been “nicked up a little bit” but still contributing on special teams, could also get some carries against Colorado.
″(Felix) is really looking good, looked great today, so we can expect to see more of him,” Cristobal said. “Cyrus has played well, has practiced well, has done a lot of good things. He’s a bigger back, he gives us a little bit of a different look, almost like you’ve got your fastball guys and you’ve got your guys that can come in there and pound it a little bit. He did that for us.
“We feel confident in all of those guys.”
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Oregon’s run game remains a work in progress. After finishing with 190 net yards against Cal, the Ducks are 64th nationally in rushing yards per game (161.8).
Colorado is 69th in rushing yards allowed per game (157.0).
“Tremendous progress,” Cristobal said of the ground attack, which was held to 61 net yards in the 21-6 win at Stanford. “I think a couple of things play into it. We let (the offensive line) play and ran a combination of things that allowed them to work, not only on double teams, but get angles on man blocks.”
The Ducks also ran 73 plays (40 runs) against Cal compared to 54 (19 runs) at Stanford.
Cumberlander was named the Pac-12 defensive lineman of the week after recording 1.5 sacks against Stanford.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, the likely replacement for Cumberlander in the starting lineup, is the conference’s reigning defensive lineman of the week after the first multi-sack game of his young career.
The 6-foot-5, 242-pound true freshman also forced a fumble and was the third-highest graded defensive end in the country by Pro Football Focus last week.
“I was so excited. My blood was going,” Thibodeaux said of playing in front of a packed student section at Autzen for the first time. “I felt like a shark when there’s blood in the water. I mean, it was unbelievable.”
Thibodeaux, D.J. Johnson and Sione Kava are all listed as potential starters at Cumberlander’s defensive end spot on this week’s depth chart.
“Gus’ injury is significant. He’ll miss the season, unfortunately,” Cristobal said. “He’s been a such a huge part of what we’ve done so far, and our thoughts and prayers with him.”