What a performance, huh? LaMichael James ran wild for 288 yards in Oregon’s 56-31 victory against Arizona. More impressive is the fact that he also had 363 all-purpose yards, and both are new school records. It has also continued the chatter that this might the best back to ever wear a Duck uniform.
I bring this up, because I remember the last time both records were set in 2001. The Ducks were playing at Washington State, and wound up beating the Cougars 24-17. Well, actually some would argue that Onterrio Smith single-handedly won that game in Pullman, because he ran for 285 yards, as well as 342 all-purpose yards in the effort.
Funny thing is, even though Onterrio was outstanding during his two brief seasons, I haven’t heard many folks say he was one of the top five running backs in Oregon history. (For the record, I would have him in my top ten, but I can name at least five that were better). But for one day, Onterrio Smith set a couple records that weren’t touched until this past weekend.
It took a decade before someone touched those records, and it may very well take another decade before they are surpassed. But I have a feeling, while LaMichael probably will go down as the greatest ever, that these marks will not stand forever. Records are, after all, made to be broken. (Particularly if they are Lawrence Welk records…).
Now let’s switch to the other side of the ball. I know there are some of you that cringed at the play of Oregon’s defense on Saturday. Yes, the Ducks had a 35-9 lead at halftime, but then Nick Foles went off in the second half. If you blinked, it was suddenly 35-24 after two Wildcat possessions, and suddenly (for a brief spell) it was a game again.
Well, I’m here to tell you not to panic just yet. First off, Nick Foles is going to throw for 400 yards or more against a lot of teams this year. He’s got a great arm and a great cast of receivers. However, keep this in mind: the Ducks pressured him on many occasions and even sacked him a few times.
Does that excuse the defense giving up 22 points in the second half? No. But this group has too much talent not to improve as the season goes along. Moreover, defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti has been pretty adept at making adjustments over the years.
Besides, will his defensive schemes ever be mistaken for the Steel Curtain defenses of the 1970’s? Of course not. It always has been (and I know Aliotti despises this term) “bend, but don’t break” with him.
Let’s put it this way: The Oregon defense would not necessarily be ready for a game against Stanford this weekend. But in November? It could be an entirely different story.
What won’t be a different story is the overall pacing of Chip Kelly’s offense. They were in fine form in Tucson, scoring anywhere from 1-2 minutes at a time. Honestly, regardless of how the defense is doing, if Oregon is averaging over 40 points a game, they’re going to be hard to stop (and that includes the Cardinals). In fact, it’s enough to drive some coaches crazy.
Speaking of which, I usually don’t like to go on record on what I think about coaches from other schools, but Arizona’s top guy Mike Stoops needs a psychiatrist. Did you see his antics on the sidelines against Oregon? I know he’s always been a little over the top, and his going on the field to bark his head off at the referees is nothing new.
But it used to be every other play. Now, it seems like he’s pulling this stunt after every single down. Honestly, it’s kind of surprise someone from the conference hasn’t taken action against him by now. Then again, it may be a moot point. If he keeps losing games this season (a very good possibility), Mike Stoops will probably be out of a job when it’s all said and done.
Now then, there would usually be a game prediction in this column. But since there is no game this weekend, I really can’t do that.
What I can do is use this week to expand my coverage and make this sports page even better. I have said that I want to make this the “go-to” sports page in the Eugene area. It isn’t there yet, but it will be in a matter of time. If you’ve got a suggestion, send it to [email protected] – you just never know.
Until then, I’ll see you in the bleachers.
Sam Finley – Sports Editor EDN