Too much size and at least an equal amount of speed on the perimeter thwarted Oregon’s ability to spread the field laterally and the LSU defensive line derailed the Ducks running game all night.
Four Oregon turnovers certainly didn’t help matters in the least. Back to back fumbles by freshman De’Anthony Thomas gave the Tigers the opportunity to seize control of the game in the third quarter and felines do have a knack for the jugular.
Darron Thomas rallied Oregon with a pair of fourth quarter scores but they were little more than window dressing.
It was a horrific third quarter for the Ducks; 15 net yards – 15 yards rushing, zero yards passing – while the Tigers held possession for 12:05 of the 15 minutes.
LSU drew first blood at 11:14 of the first with a 44-yard Drew Alleman field goal. The Ducks followed up with a pair of threes, Rob Beard hitting from the 29 (3:55) and 30 (0:42) and the first quarter ended with Oregon leading 6-3.
The lead was short lived.
On the opening play of the second quarter Kenjon Barner’s fumbled punt return led to the first touchdown of the game. Backpedaling as he caught the ball on about his own 5-yard line, Barner reversed field directly into the coverage and coughed up the ball.
Tyrann Mathieu picked it up on one bounce and two steps later the Tigers had the lead 9-6. The extra point attempt was wide.
With the running game bottled up, Darron Thomas went to the air – a lot. Throwing 54 passes the second year quarterback completed 31 for 240 yards, a score and a pick.
Statistically it was one of LaMicheal James’ (18 carries, 54 yards) worst night as a Duck, although he did set the career yards mark, passing Derek Loville’s 3,296 yards. His three yard burst gave the Ducks a 13-9 advantage after Barnes fumble, capping a 19-play, 79-yard drive.
But the Tigers drove the ball right back with Jarret Lee – who more than capably filled in for the suspended Jordan Jefferson – hooking up with Rueben Randle for a 10-yard touchdown completion that gave LSU the lead for good 16-13.
Then came that third quarter, seven minutes in the Tigers pounced.
James, and Kenjon Barner (4 carries, 7 yards) were both unavailable after Oregon’s first possession of the half yielded nothing.
The Duck defense forced a quick three and out and after the punt was downed on the Oregon six, Thomas lined up at running back for the first time, having been used exclusively as a receiver in the first half.
After Two carries netted a third down and three, Thomas slashed through LSU defense but lost control of the ball when Sam Montgomery punched the ball loose from behind. LSU’s Eric Reid recovered on the Oregon 24-yard line.
Five times the Tigers pounded the ball between the tackles with Michael Ford punching it in from five yards out at the 6:23 mark.
It was the second straight setback to the SEC for the Ducks on the main stage but this one shouldn’t sting as much as the last. The Tigers were the more experienced group, particularly on the offensive line and that is where a lot of football games are won.
Unlike January’s BCS loss to the blue and orange Tigers of Auburn, there aren’t the “should, woulda, coulda’s” that game left in the air.
Midway through the third quarter LSU – after converting that fourth turnover for the 30-13 lead – the Ducks were done and they mostly knew it.
Darron Thomas and Josh Huff connected for an 8-yard scoring reception and De’ Anthony Thomas posted his first collegiate touchdown with a 4-yard burst to close the final margin to a semi-respectable 40-27.
The loss to the Tigers greatly increases the difficulty for Oregon to return to the BCS Championship game next January. A third straight conference crown remains within reach, if the Ducks can eliminate the turnovers and penalties – “self-inflicted wounds” as head coach Chip Kelly calls them.
Home dates ahead with Nevada (Sep 10, 12:30 pm), then Missouri State (Sep 17, 12:30 pm) will give the offense time to get untracked before the Ducks face Arizona to open conference play on September 24th.
Rick Morgan for EDN