BOULDER, Colo. - The Oregon Ducks returned to Boulder for the first time since 1987 on Saturday, playing new Pac-12 Conference member Colorado at Folsom Field.
The Ducks were huge favorites, with Colorado still building its roster and suffering from more than 10 key injuries. Oregon had its own injury issues, with running back LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas out or limited in practice this week. Thomas was dressed for action before the game, but he wore a brace on his left knee. James was also in uniform for the pre-game warmups.
James, despite missing the ASU game, still leads the Pac-12 with 852 yards rushing, with 10 total TDs. Thomas had thrown 17 TD passes, and had the most consecutive starts (19) among UO offensive players going into the game.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly and Nike founder Phil Knight embraced in a big hug before the game.
The game also marked a return for Mark Helfrich, who served as an assistant coach at Colorado.
"He's told us ... stay out of Ralphie's way," Kelly joked, of the CU mascot - a live buffalo.
Oregon had won 15 consecutive league games.
Colorado led the all-time series 8-7, with the past three meetings coming in bowl games.
And, it is really cool to see the video tribute to five previous Ralphies, and to watch the current Ralphie run around the field before the game. Awesome.
Thomas and backup Bryan Bennett looked ready to go. James had his helmet off.
UO's Cliff Harris got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and Colorado was to kick off from the 45-yard line.
Here's a quarter-by-quarter game track:
Bennett and backup running back Kenjon Barner took the field. On third down, Bennett took off up the middle for a 43-yard gain, and Colorado's Kyle Washington drew a personal foul for hitting him out of bounds.
Barner scored on a 4-yard TD run, and holder Jackson Rice ran for a two-point conversion.
A Josh Kaddu sack and two penalties hindered CU's possession.
The Ducks struck on third down again, as Bennett hit Barner on a screen pass play for 31 yards to the CU 28.
Another screen pass, and a UO touchdown. Bennett and De'Anthony Thomas executed it perfectly on the 14-yard TD play, and UO led 15-0.
Josh Huff got hurt on a pass reception, and then Barner rambled 84 yards for another touchdown. A Colorado player got a penalty for hitting a slowed-down Barner in the end zone. Score: UO 22, Colorado 0.
De'Anthony Thomas and Tra Carson ran, and Bennett hit David Paulson on a 31-yard pass play for another touchdown. Score: UO 29, Colorado 0.
Wow: Colorado got an illegal block penalty on the kickoff, and then a personal foul after it.
Unbelievable: Game was over, except for the fact that three quarters remain. Oregon looked like it could score 100 points.
Colorado QB Tyler Hansen hit Toney Clemons for 21 yards, and the Buffaloes entered UO territory for the first time.
On fourth-and-6 at the UO 43, down 29-0, Colorado punted. But Darragh O'Neill did pin the Ducks at the UO 3. The Ducks drew a pass interference penalty to move out of trouble and picked up some yards, but Bennett threw incomplete on third down - the Ducks faced a punt for the first time.
Colorado had something going offensively, until linebacker Michael Clay stepped in front of Hansen's pass, picked it off and returned the ball 32 yards for a touchdown. Alejandro Maldonado missed his first extra-point attempt of the year (he was 38 for 38), leaving it 35-0, Oregon.
The Buffs moved the ball again into UO territory, but on fourth-and-9, lined up to go for it trailing 35-0, Colorado got whistled for delay of game. Punt.
Ahead 35-0 with just over two minutes left, Kelly instructed his offense go for the first down on fourth-and-2 at the CU 41. The Ducks failed.
A UO face mask penalty helped CU get into Ducks territory again. On fourth-and-4 at the UO 34, backup QB Nick Hirschman sailed a pass.
Oregon led 35-0 at halftime.
The Ducks scored on their first possession, as Bennett hit Lavasier Tuinei, who rolled over a defender as he stretched the ball into the end zone. The play was under review. The review overturned the TD, giving Oregon the ball at the CU 1 after the 31-yard play. Tra Carson scored on a 1-yard TD run.
Hansen was ruled out (undisclosed injury).
The Ducks made it 45-0 on Maldonado's 36-yard field goal.
But the shutout possibility went up in smoke when Cliff Harris was tackled in the end zone on a punt return by Terrel Smith, making it 45-2 with the safety.
The Ducks sent back Chad Delaney, a walk-on, on their next punt return. He fair-caught the ball.
Walk-on Dustin Haines replaced Bennett at quarterback.
Both offenses struggled as the midway point of the quarter came and went. The Ducks stayed with their no-huddle but mostly ran the ball with Carson and Ayele Ford.
With 4:41 left, Rice got a punt to stop in the red zone, and Oregon downed the ball at the Colorado 5-yard line.
The Buffs couldn't move and had to punt, giving the Ducks possession at midfield with 3:14.
Ford picked up 16 yards as the Ducks continued in hurry-up mode. Haines kept the ball on third-and-1 for another first down, to the Colorado 20, but then the Ducks took a knee to run out the final minute-plus.