Ducks star popped elbow back into place before leaving field
EUGENE - LaMichael James left with an injury, putting a damper on his big rushing night and Oregon's victory over a game California team Thursday at Autzen Stadium.
James rushed for 239 yards on 30 carries and surpassed 4,000 yards for his career, but he had to be driven off the field on a cart early in the fourth quarter with an apparent arm injury. X-rays were negative, and after the game James said he had an elbow injury - a dislocation that was popped back in on the field - and hopes to be back soon.
Oregon already all but had the victory in hand, and the Ducks scored their final touchdown moments after James' injury, as they beat Cal 43-15.
De'Anthony Thomas scored three touchdowns for the Ducks, who broke away from the Bears after trailing 15-14 at the half.
The Ducks moved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Pac-12 play, and have a couple of extra days to prepare - with or without James - for their first real test of the conference schedule: Arizona State, 7:15 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15 at Autzen.
His right arm in a sling, James was upbeat after the game.
"I will be in an Oregon uniform this year. It is not a season-ending injury," he said. "I'll be fine. I'm tough. I'm never going to go out on my team. Even if I tore my ACL, I would still play."
The Bears (3-2, 0-2) had played the Ducks as well as any team last year, losing 15-13 on their home field. And, for a half Thursday, Cal was in position to win.
Three field goals by Giorgio Tavecchio, an impressive drive and Zach Maynard's TD pass to standout Keenan Allen gave the Bears the lead at intermission.
James had an odd first half: 166 yards on 14 carries, four of the carries (53, 47, 39, 30 yards) accounting for 169 yards, the other 10 for minus-three.
The Ducks grabbed the lead 21-15 on their first drive of the second half, and never looked back.
Helped by a Cal pass-interference penalty, the Ducks drove 88 yards on 13 plays and 5:01. Quarterback Darron Thomas threw a 23-yard TD pass to De'Anthony Thomas, who got his second score of the game.
The Ducks then got a defensive stop, and James continued to rush well, topping 200 yards.
With James taking a breather, running partner Kenjon Barner went 68 yards for a touchdown. Darron Thomas' conversion pass to true freshman De'Anthony Thomas put Oregon ahead 29-15. "Offensive line and receivers made great blocks downfield," Barner said, of the pivotal play, "and it opened the hole up and I went in untouched."
James, who had a school-record 288 yards against Arizona in Oregon's most-recent outing, kept putting the yards behind him. And the Ducks scored again, with QB Thomas hitting De'Anthony Thomas on a 21-yard TD pass to make the score 36-15.
The Thomas-and-Thomas connection worked again, for 31 yards, as the Ducks threatened to score again at the end of the third quarter.
But then the injury occurred, as James got stopped on a carry and fumbled. It appeared his arm bent backward on the play.
After James was helped from the field, Darron Thomas threw a 3-yard TD pass to Lavasier Tuinei, and it was 43-15.
"Well-coached operation," UO coach Chip Kelly said, of Cal. "We knew it'd be a battle.
"We made some mistakes in the first half. When our offense can get into rhythm, we start rolling. It was execution. We had to make some adjustments. ... The second half, we started to wear them down. If we can start to wear you down ... and get executing ... fortunately we came away with 29 points."
Said QB Thomas, of the second half: "We knew we had to go. We were going to come out and put the pedal to the metal. ... Not a gut check; they came out and did a good job defensively, and we had to clean up some things."
James eclipsed 200 yards for the third consecutive game. Thomas went a modest 13 of 25 for 198 yards and three TDs, while De'Anthony Thomas had six catches for 114 yards and two of those scores. Barner chipped in 88 yards rushing.
Kelly said De'Anthony Thomas "changed the game for us. If you're going to gang up on our run game, we're going to throw the football. ... They play a lot of man coverage, and you've got to have receivers that can beat man."
For Cal, Maynard finished 20 of 41 for 218 yards before being replaced in the second half. Allen had nine catches for 170 yards. Isi Sofele rushed for 119 yards on 12 carries.
Holding Cal to three first-half field goals was big, Kelly said. Then, the defense pitched a second-half shutout.
"I thought we played our best game of the year, overall," defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said.
Maynard (11 of 24 passing in the first half) had some errant throws, or the Bears could have been ahead by more than one point. Instead, Cal had success on the ground and through the air with Maynard and Allen. And the Cal defense, while giving up big runs to James, held the Ducks in check. The Ducks had 271 yards to Cal's 240 in the first half (it finished UO 563, Cal 465).
Tavvechio's first field goal came after the Bears got 20 yards from Isi Sofele and 25 on a Maynard-Allen hook-up. Maynard then threw an incomplete pass on third down, the start of a trend. Tavecchio hit from 27 yards.
James took a carry around left end and scampered 53 yards for a touchdown, and Oregon went in front 7-3.
The Bears scored again, as Sofele, who had 93 yards rushing in the first half, ran for 34 and Tavecchio hit from 38 yards.
Stuck at fourth-and-1 from the UO 39, the Ducks gambled, and James ran for four yards. He then ripped off a 47-yard run, and De'Anthony Thomas took a reverse carry and scored on a 17-yard run to give the Ducks a 14-6 lead with 2:22 left in the first half.
But, the Ducks would be done scoring until after the break.
With the wind at his back, Tavecchio nailed a 54-yard field goal to draw Cal within 14-9.
James ran for 39 yards, shortly after exiting the game hobbled. With the run, he surpassed 4,000 yards for his career. But the Ducks still couldn't get any points. Ernest Owusu batted down Thomas' fourth-and-8 pass at the Cal 41.
Sofele ran for 25 yards, and Maynard threw 28 yards to Allen on third-and-19. Threading the UO defense, Maynard passed 13 yards to Allen for the Cal touchdown that gave the Bears their 15-14 edge. A two-point conversion pass failed.
The Ducks quickly appeared on the move, with Darron Thomas throwing 27 yards to Josh Huff and 12 to De'Anthony Thomas. But QB Thomas sailed a pass that Cal's D.J. Campbell picked off and returned 29 yards into UO territory.
Maynard threw 17 yards to Allen and 7 to Spencer Hagan. Cal barely got off a field-goal try, after Maynard threw incomplete with one second left in the half, but John Boyett blocked Tavecchio's 40-yard attempt.
"The blocked field goal at the end of the first half was huge," Kelly said. "It gave us a real momentum boost."
CAL 6 9 0 0 -- 15
OREGON 14 0 22 7 -- 43
CAL -- 1st, 10:30: Giorgio Tavecchio 27 FG
OREGON -- 1st, 10:00: LaMichael James 53 run (Alejandro Maldonado kick)
CAL -- 1st, 8:27: Tavecchio 38 FG
OREGON -- 1st, 2:22: De'Anthony Thomas 17 run (Maldonado kick)
CAL -- 2nd, 9:40: Tavecchio 54 FG
CAL -- 2nd, 6:05: Keenan Allen 12 pass from Zach Maynard (pass failed)
OREGON -- 3rd, 9:56: De'Anthony Thomas 23 pass from Darron Thomas (Maldonado kick)
OREGON -- 3rd, 6:38: Kenjon Barner 68 TD run (De'Anthony Thomas pass from Darron Thomas)
OREGON -- 3rd, 2:18: De'Anthony Thomas 21 pass from Darron Thomas (Maldonado kick)
OREGON -- 4th, 14:06: Lavasier Tuinei 3 pass from Thomas (Maldonado kick)