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2011 RECAP • UO bounces back twice from a loss

by: JAIME VALDEZ De’Anthony Thomas shows off the Oregon Ducks’ 2011 Pac-12 championship hat and T-shirt after the title game victory over UCLA.

Observations from the Oregon Ducks' journey to their third consecutive league championship:

LSU 40, UO 27

Sept. 3, Arlington, Texas

The Ducks were overrated to start the season at No. 3. LSU had big and fast talent, depth and a safe senior (Jarrett Lee) playing quarterback. No surprise. (Uh, the Tigers went on to finish 13-0 and make the national championship game as the No. 1-ranked team; they're pretty good).

UO 69, Nevada 20

Sept. 10, Autzen Stadium

The first of two get-well games for the Ducks. Quarterback Darron Thomas tied the school record with six TD passes.

UO 56, Missouri State 7

Sept. 17, Autzen Stadium

After being bottled up against LSU and trying to get his mojo back against Nevada, LaMichael James erupted for 204 yards on 12 carries as UO took care of an overwhelmed Division I-AA team.

UO 56, Arizona 31

Sept. 24, Tucson, Ariz.

If Arizona QB Nick Foles and his receivers had made key plays, the game could have been competitive. Instead, James' school-record 288 yards led the way, although the Oregon defense looked suspect.

UO 43, Cal 15

Oct. 6, Autzen Stadium

All went well in the Pac-12 home opener against the team that gave Oregon its toughest game in 2010 - except for James suffering a gruesome right elbow injury after gaining 239 yards.

UO 41, Arizona State 27

Oct. 15, Autzen Stadium

Sans James, the Ducks overcame the game Sun Devils, although QB Darron Thomas tweaked his knee, which allowed backup Bryan Bennett a chance to shine.

UO 45, Colorado 2

Oct. 22, Boulder, Colo.

Sans James and Thomas, the Bennett-led Ducks scored 29 first-quarter points. The game provided the most head-shaking, amusing moment of the season when the infamous Cliff Harris (later booted from the program after various problems) got tackled in the end zone while returning a punt.

UO 43, Washington State 28

Oct. 29, Autzen Stadium

Led by QB Marshall Loebbestael, the Cougs outgained the home team, as questions remained about the UO defense. But freshman De'Anthony Thomas starred for the Ducks, and QB Thomas and James returned to action.

UO 34, Washington 17

Nov. 5, Seattle

In a game many deemed a potential upset, the Ducks held QB Keith Price and running Chris Polk in check. It was the last game at old Husky Stadium - and another jewel in UO's Northwest crown.

UO 53, Stanford 30

Nov. 12, Stanford, Calif.

Speed and tenacity were on display as the Ducks blew out Andrew Luck's Cardinal in the Pac-12's preeminent game. Oregon re-emerged in the national title picture.

USC 38, UO 35

Nov. 19, Autzen Stadium

Oops. Trojans QB Matt Barkley (26 of 34, 323 yards, four TDs) and receivers Marquis Lee and Robert Woods exploited the Ducks, who rallied from 38-14 down only to lose when Alejandro Maldonado missed a 37-yard field-goal attempt. Bye-bye return 'natty' trip.

UO 49, Oregon State 21

Nov. 26, Autzen Stadium

Ho-hum. The Ducks routed their overmatched rival to earn a berth in the inaugural Pac-12 title game.

UO 49, UCLA 31

Dec. 2, Autzen Stadium

Ho-hum, part two. Too bad USC wasn't eligible to play for the Pac-12 title, as the Ducks easily knocked out the Bruins and their coach Rick Neuheisel, who worked his final game knowing he already had been fired.

-Jason Vondersmith