Sept. 25, 2011
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - LaMichael James kept zipping and zagging through the desert night, playing the Road Runner to Arizona's Wile E. Coyote.
By the time he had finished slashing his way through and around the Wildcats on Saturday night, he had a school record 288 yards. He also broke the Oregon mark for career rushing touchdowns with two scores to lead the No. 10 Ducks to a 56-31 victory over Arizona in their Pac-12 opener.
"We just couldn't find a way to stop him," Wildcats coach Mike Stoops said.
Oregon (3-1), the two-time defending Pac-10 champion, won its 13th consecutive conference game, blowing open a 35-3 lead and then holding off a Wildcats rally before pulling away again with its lightning-quick offense.
All but the last of the Ducks' seven touchdown drives lasted less than three minutes. Darron Thomas passed for two scores and ran for two more
Nick Foles completed 33 of 55 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns for the Wildcats (1-3).
Arizona, playing its third consecutive top-10 team, has lost eight of nine dating to last year. The lone victory was this season's opener against Northern Arizona.
"We just need to develop some leadership," Stoops said, "and we were overwhelmed over the three games."
Oregon has the top-ranked offense in the Pac-12. Arizona's defense statistically is the worst. So the results from the opening kickoff were predictable.
James, who also had a 51-yard punt return, averaged 12.2 yards per carry in his second consecutive and fifth career 200-yard rushing game. He broke Oregon's single-game rushing record of 257 yards by Ontario Smith against Washington State in 2001.
He said he didn't know about the record until someone on the sideline told him he needed 15 yards to break it.
"I was like, 'Oh, hopefully I can stay in the game,"' he said.
James deflected the praise, though, like any good running back should, and he was beyond good on this night.
"I was just really thinking about the win," he said. "Individual records don't mean anything. It takes a team to get those records, and the offensive line did a great job, so I feel like those guys should share the record with me, too."
With his touchdown runs of 12 and 19 yards, the speedy back has 43 scoring runs, breaking Derek Loville's school record of 42.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly said defenses have a tough time with the Ducks' triple running threat of James, Thomas and Kenjon Barner.
"We're starting to find our rhythm," he said. "We've still got some issues up front that we've got to clean up at times, but when our running back's running like that - it makes us a real tough team to defend from a running standpoint when the quarterback can hit it, Kenjon can hit it, and LaMichael can hit it."
The Ducks amassed 516 yards, 415 on the ground.
"We knew, especially against Nick Foles, that this game never is in hand," Kelly said. "We were aware that we were going to get a great shot from them in the second half, and I thought our offense responded well."
With his team down 35-3, Foles led the Wildcats to three consecutive touchdowns. His 7-yard pass to David Roberts, and 2-point conversion toss to David Douglas, cut Oregon's lead to 35-24 with 3:14 to go in the third quarter. Kelly had seen Foles do this in previous encounters.
But the Ducks simply zipped to another score. James had a 31-yard run, and Thomas went the final 5 yards for the touchdown.
Foles got Arizona to the Oregon 6 on the subsequent kickoff, but the drive stalled. On fourth down he was sacked.
The Ducks reeled off five of their trademark lightning-fast touchdown drives, in six possessions, to open a 35-9 lead at the half.
James led the way, rushing for 133 yards in 11 carries in the first two quarters.
UA Cornerback Trevin Wade:
Oregon's first-half TD drives went 2:42 (8 plays, 80 yards), 2:19 (10 plays, 72 yards), 2:06 (8 plays, 80 yards), 2:02 (6 plays, 55 yards) and 1:37 (4 plays, 28 yards).
The Ducks amassed 300 yards in the first two quarters, 214 on the ground. Barner also ran for a pair of scores.
Of the Ducks' 28 touchdown drives this season, 22 have taken less than three minutes. Another went 3:01.
The stadium was almost full, and the student section was packed at kickoff, but about half of the students and a good share of the rest of the crowd was gone by halftime.
Foles' performance included a left-handed toss as he was being swarmed on the sideline - 11 yards to Keola Antolin and a first down at the Oregon 34 as the third quarter ended.
Arizona Head Coach Mike Stoops' Quotes
"I thought that the first half was very frustrating and humiliating in some ways. We were down, and didn't play well, and when you get down early to a team like Oregon, it's difficult to come back. I think our receivers played the worst they have all season in that first half. I don't have any real answers. We were just unprepared to play."
"In the second half, we got into the game, and developed more of a rhythm. It pleased me to see how we came out in that third quarter. We developed an offensive rhythm, and threw and caught a lot better. We were a decent offensive team, but we are not close enough on offense to beat good times like Oregon."
"LaMichael James was spectacular tonight. We just couldn't find a way to stop him. His speed and footwork really worked against our defensive line, which is very young. Our middle linebacker sometimes gets overwhelmed, which is understandable, because of his youth, but we just need to get better and a lot more mature. Football starts with defense, and we don't have that right now."
"As usual, I think Nick (Foles) did a fantastic job tonight. He just continues to be great and to do what we needed. He gets respect from the competition, which is very important. He made some great tosses in the first half, but we just couldn't get our receivers."
"We need to work on getting control of the game earlier, and like what I saw from our run game tonight. We just need a little more to balance out the pass game. I don't know what to do about the defense, but we do need to figure something out in order to match up with teams like Oregon. Tonight we just weren't good enough or athletic enough to beat them."
"We just need to develop some leadership, and we were overwhelmed over the three games. I'm just pleased to see that we were able to improve tonight, and there are a lot of lessons that we learned tonight that we can take into next week's match at USC. We just need to play better and find that proper leadership, and someone just needs to make those big plays."