LaMichael James rushed for 239 yards and a touchdown to lead Oregon past California 43-15 Thursday evening at Autzen Stadium. But the victory may have come at a steep price when the All-American running back suffered what appeared to be a dislocated elbow in the fourth quarter.
The Ducks were in control of the game 36-15 as the fourth quarter started, and James bolted 15 yards to the California three. On the next play he was sandwiched between a pair of Cal defenders and immediately grabbed his right elbow. After being tended to for several minutes on the field, James was carted to the locker room for examination.
In his post game comments, James indicated that x-rays had shown no break and, despite having his arm in a sling, vowed that he would be playing again quickly.
“It’s not a season ending injury,” he said. “I’ll be fine. I’m tough, I’m a warrior and I’m never going to quit on my team.”
However, James admitted that elbow did create plenty of anguish for him.
“It was pretty painful,” he claimed. “It was more painful that I wasn’t able to finish the game with my teammates. That was the painful part of it.”
At the same time, he did not rule out being back next week.
“We have the best trainers in the country,” James stated. “I’m sure they are going get on it ASAP and I’ll be there four times a day so I can get on that field.”
California took the opening possession to the Oregon 10, but had to settle for a 27-yard Georgio Tavecchio field goal.
As the rain started to fall, Kenjon Barner fielded Tavecchio’s kick-off at his own 18 and returned it to the Oregon 36.
On his first offensive snap Darron Thomas found De’Anthony Thomas for 11 yards and on his second snap gave the ball to James.
The junior from Texarkana, Texas beat the California defense to the corner, then turned up field for a 53 yard touchdown and a 7-3 Oregon lead.
Once again California drove the ball into Oregon territory, but had to settle for another Tavecchio field goal.
More than willing to trade threes for sevens, Oregon mounted another impressive drive. It featured a 47 yard James run, and was consummated with a 17 yard touchdown pass from Darron Thomas to De’Anthony Thomas.
California clawed their way back into the lead in the second quarter. Tavecchio kicked his third field goal to cut the lead to 14-9. Then with six minutes remaining in the half, Maynard hit wide receiver Keenan Allan for a 12-yard scoring pass. That gave Cal a 15-14 advantage.
The Bears were poised to add to that lead on the last play of the half, but Tavecchio’s 40-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
Head coach Chip Kelly pointed to that block as a key to Oregon’s second half performance, as well as some needed offensive adjustments.
“De’Anthony really kind of changed the game for us,” said Kelly. “If you are going to gang up on the run game, we are going to be able to throw the ball. I thought Darron put the ball especially in the second half where it needed to be and made some real tight throws.”
Quarterback Thomas connected with receiver/running back De’Anthony Thomas for touchdowns of 23 yards and 21 yards in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. In between, Kenjon Barner bolted untouched through the Bear defense for a 68 yard scoring run.
Meanwhile, Oregon’s defense throttled the Cal offense, shutting them out in the second half.
“I’m extremely happy,” said defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. “I didn’t think we played really bad in the first half. We gave them a few plays, but holding them to three field goals was key. In the second half I really loved the kids’ aggression. We turned up the dial a little bit, brought some heat from different places, and just kinda said we’re coming.”
Oregon amassed 563 yards of total offense with Darron Thomas completing 13 of 25 passes for 198 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. De’Anthony Thomas had six receptions for 144 and a pair of scores.
Oregon improves to 4-1 over all and 2-0 in Pac-12 play, while California falls to 3-2 and 0-2 in conference.
Arizona State is next up for the Ducks with the Sun Devils coming to Autzen for a 7:15 kickoff on Saturday, October 15.
–Rick Morgan for EDN