Oregon draws Pac-10 record crowd

EUGENE, Ore. -- Just a few months removed from the BCS championship, the Oregon Ducks played their spring game Saturday before a Pac-10 record crowd of more than 43,000.

Heisman finalist LaMichael James showed he hadn't lost a step by running for a 67-yard touchdown for Oregon's green team early in the day. Rob Beard added three field goals for a 16-0 victory over the white team.

According to Oregon's count, a Pac-10 and school spring record 43,468 fans showed up for the game, which appeared to catch both the university and Eugene officials off guard. Traffic was snarled in the city and some parking gates at Autzen Stadium were shut, adding to the backup.

For comparison, last year's spring game drew 25,211, the previous school record.

The attendance demonstrated the leap the program took last season, when Oregon went 12-0 before losing to Auburn in the national championship game in January. The Ducks were ranked No. 3 behind the Tigers and TCU in the final Associated Press Poll.

Last season in the spring game, quarterback Darron Thomas was battling for the starting job with fifth-year senior Nate Costa. He didn't win the job until the final scrimmage of fall camp.

Thomas would go on to throw for 2,881 yards and 30 touchdowns, and run for five more scores. On Saturday, Thomas threw for 129 yards and was intercepted once.

Coach Chip Kelly said this season Thomas needs to take on a greater leadership role.

"He's growing into it," Kelly said.

Thomas said he's doing his best to help his inexperienced teammates ready for the Ducks' blisteringly fast spread-option.

"Our practice tempo and our game tempo are two different things," Thomas laughed. "They're going to have to get into a game to see what it's like."

James, who set a new single-season record for the Ducks with 1,731 yards last season, ran for 78 yards on three carries. He and Thomas played for much of the first half on Saturday before sitting the second.

"Went well today," James said. "I think we did a lot of good things on both sides of the ball."

The Ducks got a look at promising recruit Colt Lyerla from Hillsboro High School west of Portland. Lyerla, a tight end who enrolled at Oregon early, caught nine passes for 37 yards.

Kelly said he was impressed by the 18-year-old, but noted that "just four weeks ago, he was in high school."

"Sometimes when you go from high school to college it's like learning a new language," Kelly said.

Oregon returns seven starters on offense and six on defense. Among the key players who have moved on are linebackers Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger, receiver Jeff Maehl and center Jordan Holmes.

Defensive coordinator Nick Alioti was coach of the white "visitors" team, while Kelly was in charge of the green team.

The players wore special camouflage jerseys in honor of the U.S. armed forces. At halftime the Ducks honored Eugene police officer Chris Kilcullen, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop on April 22.

Oregon opens the season in Arlington, Texas, against LSU on Sept. 3.