(PHOTO) Oregon Ducks running back LaMichael James on the sidelines against the California Golden Bears during the first quarter at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Z. Rider-US PRESSWIRE.
"Our guys understand in how we practice that prepares us to play for 60 minutes. It's a tough league and you're not going to walk in and hang 40 [points] on people each week by half time and come in the locker room like during the Missouri State and Nevada games,” said Head Coach Chip Kelly. “It's a battle."
Oregon trailed California 15-14 at halftime but came out in the third quarter and put on an offensive, smash-mouth football show. Scoring three times in the quarter and racking up 256 yards, most of it on the ground (162 yards) Oregon bullied its way to a commanding 35-15 lead and did so without letting the Bears score a point.
"We had to make some adjustments [at the half] and our staff has really done a nice job, at least since I've been here, of making the proper adjustments and by and large we usually come out in the second half a pretty good team, " said Kelly.
With the Ducks riding high, Oregon muscled its way into the fourth quarter and it looked like LaMichael James had smoked his way around the end for his second touchdown of the night. Unfortunately, he stepped out of bounds on the Cal 3-yardline and that meant he would have to carry the ball one more time to score. It was then that he took a handoff from Darron Thomas and ran into the heart of the Bear defense. Moments later the stadium went dead silent as James lay withering in pain from some sort of injury. Trainers and doctors surrounded No. 21 as he lay on the ground and it was clear something happened to his arm. No one could tell what the extent of the damages were but it looked bad and required James to be carted off the field to the chant by the sold out Autzen Stadium crowd, “LaMichael James, LaMichael James, LaMichael James.”
James had been indestructible over the last two years, but now all anyone could do was wait and see.
"It's not a season-ending injury, I feel good, I WILL NEVER give up on my teammates," proclaimed James following the game.
James had been magnificent against Cal by racking up 239 yards on 30 carries including a 53-yard streak to the endzone in the first quarter. With James out, the collective breath of the Ducks drew in because there was still a touchdown to score, a game to play and any fretting about the star would have to be put on hold.
"I think he's going to be alright, he's a tough guy,” Darron Thomas said of James.” Anytime anyone goes down, the team will rally around him and we played for LaMike."
That was a good idea, because on the next snap after James left the field, Thomas found Lavasier Tuinei in the back of the endzone giving Oregon a 43-15 lead after the PAT and putting the game safely into the win column. Worrying about life after LaMichael James still could be put off at least until the end of the game.
For the rest of the fourth quarter, it was really a matter of the Duck defense holding firm, which they did and when Cal was able to move the ball to the Oregon 2, Oregon’s defense stood firm, perhaps in a message of support for their injured teammate James, but the Cal Bears could get no closer, eventually turning the ball over on downs.
"We couldn't catch up in the second half,” observed Cal’s Jeff Tedford. “They played really well, they moved the ball really well and they have speed and a receiver that makes good plays in the second half. First half was all good and they dialed up some stuff for the second half. It's not demoralizing because it is still early."
For the game, Oregon finished with a total of 563 yards of offense compared to Cal’s 465. The Ducks runners had 365 yards of rushing, 239 for James, 88 for Kenjon Barner, 19 for Tra Carson and 18 for DeAnthony Thomas. Darron Thomas had a long rush of 25 but also lost 24 yards mostly by a rare sack given up by the Oregon offense.
In the passing game, DeAnthony Thomas can rightfully claim he had a breakout game as a receiver with his six catches for 114 yards, two touchdowns including a long of 41. The Duck offense scored when it wanted to by any way it wanted to.
"All of our hard practices showed off today,” said Thomas. “I am thoroughly pleased with the way that we all played today, especially in the second half, defensively."
Defensively, the Ducks showed some moxie in the second half after a first half that made one wonder that Cal could score at will. Not so in the third quarter. Oregon constantly put pressure on Cal quarterback Zach Maynard. For the game the Ducks had two sacks (Brandon Hanna and Isaac Remington) among the six tackles for loss. John Boyett was the leading tackler with seven tackles (five solos including one TFL) and a break up. Dion Jordan was especially disruptive with six tackles (three solos and two TFLs). Avery Paterson also had six tackles (four solos). Terrell Turner also had a TFL. Another statistical category that reflected Oregon’s aggressiveness was Quarterback Hurries, and the Ducks managed five QBHs.
“We thrive off each other, so when [the defense] gets a stop on third down and the offense will go back out and score,” remarked Kelly. “You can see that it's kind of a momentum swing."
While the Ducks failed to pick off any passes, they came very close with 14 break ups.
On special teams, Alejandro Maldanado was successful on his five PAT attempts but he did miss 52-yard field goal attempt. The Ducks scored a two-point conversion when Darron Thomas hit DeAnthony Thomas.
Now the really good news for the Ducks, after the game James came into the interview room and revealed that x-rays had shown there was no fracture to his arm and while he is likely out for next week against ASU, he is confident he’ll see action sometime after that.
"It was more painful knowing that I couldn't go out there and finish the game with my team more than my actual elbow,” concluded James.” I am happy for my team the way they went out there and finished the game off strong."
And so are Kelly, the Ducks and their fans.
- JR RB LaMichael James rushed for 239 yards on 30 carries, surpassing the 4,000-yard mark and moving into fifth place all-time in conference history with 4,129 yards.
- James became the first Duck to record three straight 200-yard rushing efforts and first player in the FBS with three in a row since Tulane's Matt Forte in 2007. The last Pac-10/12 player to do it more times was USC's Marcus Allen (5) in 1981.
- FR RB De'Anthony Thomas became the first Duck with 100-plus receiving yards in a game this season with 114 on six receptions. He had a career-best three touchdowns, two receiving and one rushing.
- JR RB Kenjon Barner set a career-long on his 68-yard touchdown run in the 3rd quarter.
- JR QB Darron Thomas has at least one touchdown pass in 18 straight games, the second-longest streak in the nation.
- Thomas had gone 110 pass attempts without an interception before a pick by Cal's D.J. Campbell in the 2nd quarter.
- After the INT, Thomas went 5 for 6 for 95 yards and three touchdowns.
- JR CB Cliff Harris had a season and game-high three pass breakups.
- As a team, the Ducks broke up a season-high 14 passes.
- JR FS John Boyett recorded his second blocked kick of the season and career when he tipped Cal's 40-yard attempt by Giorgio Tavecchio at the end of the first half.
- James first touch of the game went for a 53-yard touchdown run, his third rushing score of 50 or more yards this season.
- The Ducks have now won 19 consecutive games at Autzen Stadium, dating to 2008, and 14 straight conference games - both at home and overall. UO improved to 4-0 in Thursday night games at Autzen.
- Oregon shutout its opponent in the second half for the second time this season (Missouri State, Sept. 17).
- The last three times the Ducks have trailed at home at the half, they have won by margins of 28, 19 (vs. Arizona in 2010) and 21 (vs. Stanford in 2010).
- Oregon's 43 points were its fewest at home since 37 in a 37-33 victory vs. Oregon State Dec. 3, 2009.
- The crowd of 58,796 (capacity 54,000) marked the 77th consecutive sellout at Autzen Stadium, dating to 1999. The last non-sellout was Sept. 18, 1999 vs. Nevada.