Running back LaMichael James felt it, and so did the rest of the top-ranked Ducks. There was something inexplicably amiss at the start of Oregon’s 53-16 victory over northwest rival Washington on Saturday. Something completely out of character for the nation’s most prolific offense.
The Ducks (9-0, 6-0 Pac-10) were held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time this season. Their first points came on a 29-yard field goal early in the second quarter. Of course they went on to thoroughly recover, outscoring Washington 35-10 in the second half. James ran for 121 yards and three touchdowns, while Darron Thomas threw for a score and ran for two more.
After Oregon opened the scoring with Rob Beard’s field goal, Erik Folk’s 52-yard attempt for Washington went wide left. But Folk made another 52-yarder later in the quarter to tie the game at 3. James finally got a touchdown for the Ducks midway through the second quarter with a 1-yard run. Beard ran in the 2-point conversion.
Before halftime Thomas ran 34 yards for a score to make it 18-3. Washington appeared to narrow it with less than a minute left with Price’s 16-yard scoring pass to Devin Aguilar, but it was called back by a penalty, and the Huskies settled for a Folk’s 27-yard field goal to make it 18-6 at the break.
After Price threw a 17-yard scoring pass to D’Andre Goodwin to make it 18-13 at the start of the second half, the Ducks answered with Thomas’ 6-yard scoring pass to Jeff Maehl. Oregon attempted a 26-field goal but Nate Costa bobbled the hold and tried to run it. Costa, Thomas’ backup at quarterback, was knocked out of bounds near Washington’s bench and appeared to injure his right knee. He left the field on a cart.
James ran 13 yards for a touchdown before Thomas scored on a 7-yard dash to close out the third quarter. James added a 1-yard scoring run early in the fourth. James, a sophomore and the nation’s rushing leader, has run for 30 TDs at Oregon. He has 16 games with at least 100 yards. Kenjon Barner, who had missed the past two games after sustaining a concussion against Washington State, ran 30 yards for a touchdown with 4:34 left.
Oregon, as usual, wore the Huskies out. Thomas completed 24 of 33 passes for 243 yards. He ran for 89 yards. The Huskies lead the series against Oregon 58-40-5, but the Ducks have won the last seven games, all by 20 or more points. Last season Oregon won 43-19 at Husky Stadium. Washington had not faced a top-ranked team since 2007, when it lost to USC 27-24. Oregon visits California next Saturday, before wrapping up the season against Arizona and at Oregon State. The Huskies host UCLA then finish on the road against Cal and Washington State.