Thomas, James lead Ducks' Green team to 16-0 spring-game victory
EUGENE - College football coaches are notorious for downplaying the importance of a spring football game. Ask most of them what their No. 1 goal is and you will generally hear it is to come out of the game injury-free.
With that goal accomplished, Oregon coach Chip Kelly was all smiles after the Ducks' spring game Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
'Overall, I was pleased,' Kelly said. 'The big thing is, can you get out of it healthy? And this year we're relatively healthy coming out of it.'
The game consisted of two regulation quarters in the first half and a running clock in the second half. While Kelly was happiest about his team's health, he was also pleased by some of the things he saw on the field.
'It's a chance for guys,' Kelly said. 'It's an opportunity to shine. And some guys took advantage of that.'
The Green team, led by quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James, won the scrimmage 16-0 over the White.
After gaining 11 yards on his first two carries, James exploded through the line on a run up the gut for a 67-yard touchdown. The run was James' last carry and the game's only touchdown.
Rob Beard was responsible for the rest of the scoring, making field goals from 42, 39 and 21 yards.
The Green had other scoring chances, but failed to convert several fourth- down opportunities.
'The (Green) team moved the ball really well,' Kelly said, while adding with a smile that 'they stalled a few times. I've got to talk to those guys about going for it on fourth down. That's usually not my philosophy.'
The spring game, dedicated to U.S. troops, shattered Oregon spring game attendance records with 43,468 people on hand. Last year's crowd was 25,211.
'It was unbelievable,' Kelly said. 'That's a credit to our fans. Obviously, it's not about just our football program. They just weren't here for our spring game. (They were here) number one to honor our troops and say thank you for what they do.'
Thomas completed 15 of 21 passes for 129 yards, with an interception. Thomas' counterpart on the White team, redshirt freshman quarterback Bryan Bennett, was 10 of 18 for 98 yards and an interception.
Slash player Daryle Hawkins led the White on the ground with 38 yards on four carries.
Receiver Lavasier Tuinei, playing for the Green, led all receivers with six catches for 46 yards. Tight end David Paulson led the White with four catches for 42 yards. True freshman Colt Lyerla, who decided to forgo his final months at Hillsboro High to participate in spring practices, caught three passes for 37 yards for the Green.
'Colt did a decent job catching the ball, especially in traffic,' Kelly said, 'which is the big thing for the tight end - can you control the middle of the field?'
A total of 16 points from both offenses is not standard for a Kelly/Oregon program. But spring scrimmages are often dominated by the defense.
Defensive tackle Wade Keliikipi and cornerback Terrance Mitchell were the defensive standouts. Keliikipi had six tackles, two for a loss and a sack. Mitchell had five solo tackles, one for a loss.
'Sometimes guys get exposed (in spring games),' Kelly said. 'I know (defensive end) Dion (Jordan) - I don't know who messed up - but there were a couple stretches where he was in the backfield on every play. Was he lining up against an inexperienced guy? I'm not sure.'
With spring football over, it will be up to the players to govern themselves before the team reconvenes for summer camp Aug. 8 in preparation for the Sept. 3 season opener against LSU at Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
'We've got a lot of work before we come back here on August 8th,' Kelly said. 'And that will be in the hands of our players now.'