LaMichael James puts Oregon in Pac-12's driver's seat
STANFORD, Calif. -- LaMichael James made one defender slip, then another. He cut back, sprinted through a seam and burst into the open field, taking large chunks of yards -- and grass -- all the way to the end zone.
No turf? No problem for the Quack Attack.
James ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns and Oregon (No. 7 BCS, No. 6 AP) blew past Stanford (No. 4 BCS, No. 3 AP) 53-30 on Saturday night, giving Andrew Luck's Heisman Trophy campaign a blemish and taking a giant step toward hosting the inaugural Pac-12 championship.
"We were slipping. They were slipping. I just ran fast," James said.
Too fast for Stanford -- again.
James ran for scores from 1, 4 and 58 yards and had Stanford (9-1, 7-1) defenders slipping all over a slick field. The Ducks (9-1, 7-0) ended the nation's best winning streak at 17 games -- which the Cardinal began after a loss in Eugene more than a year ago -- and can clinch the league's North Division crown over Stanford with a win in one of their final two games.
"It's pretty cool. They always look down on us and then we come out and just play our game," Oregon defensive end Terrell Turner said. "That's what we want to do. Play our game and just shock people."
The Ducks had no problem with Luck.
Luck threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions and a fumble. Stanford had five total turnovers and lost its grip -- and footing -- for the first time all season.
Oregon's no-huddle, spread-option ended any hopes of Stanford's first national championship. Instead, the Ducks are suddenly back in the BCS title mix after rolling off their ninth straight victory -- and first against a top-five team on the road team -- since a season-opening loss against top-ranked LSU.
"It means nothing until the first week of December," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "We've lost one. We lose two we're not even in the discussion."
Darron Thomas threw for 155 yards and three touchdowns to anchor one big-play burst after another. He tossed scores of 59 yards to Josh Huff and 41 yards to De'Anthony Thomas to leave sold-out Stanford Stadium stunned and silent.
The Cardinal did little with the few mistakes Oregon made.
James muffed a punt that and gave Stanford a chance at the Oregon 34. The Ducks quickly stifled Stanford again, and Eric Whitaker missed a 48-yard field badly right.
When the Cardinal got the ball back, Isaac Remington smashed Luck and forced the quarterback to fumble. Oregon recovered and James followed with a 4-yard score on fourth-and-2 to give the Ducks a commanding 36-16 lead in the third quarter.
All the Luck in the world couldn't bring Stanford back.
The two offenses traded scores until Boseko Lokombo intercepted a pass by Luck and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown to give the Ducks a 53-30 lead. Luck dived for the tackle at the goal line and got planted in the grass.
Too late again.
"I knew it wasn't going to be a cake walk," said Luck, who turned down a chance to be the NFL's No. 1 pick last April in hopes of leading Stanford to a league championship and maybe even a national title. "I had no grand illusions of just showing up and things just falling for our team because we just show up on Saturdays. We still have football left. For that I'm grateful. Hopefully more games after the conference season is over. There's still goals out there for us to accomplish."
While a pair of the nation's highest-scoring offenses showed imperfections, Oregon pounced on the mistakes and ran away with points each time.
Dewitt Stuckey also intercepted a pass by Luck that setup the Ducks' first score, a 4-yard touchdown pass from Darron Thomas to Lavasier Tuinei that started an avalanche of Oregon offense.
James ran through the middle untouched for a 58-yard touchdown to extend Oregon's lead to 15-6 early in the second quarter. The Ducks threatened to pad their lead again until Delano Howell, with a cast around his right hand, punched the ball loose from Kenjon Barner and Stanford recovered.
Kelly gambled all night and his offense made him look good.
On fourth-and-7 from the Stanford 41, De'Anthony Thomas took a short pass and raced down the sideline for a 41-yard TD that pushed Oregon in front 22-9 late in the first half. With the Ducks again about to make the game a rout, Luck answered in impressive fashion.
He led an eight-play, 84-yard drive capped by a threaded 13-yard TD pass to Whalen for the second time. The crucial score with 24 seconds remaining in the half trimmed Oregon's lead to 22-16.
It was the first time Stanford trailed at the half since at Notre Dame in 2009, when the Cardinal were down 24-20. Stanford rallied for a 45-38 win in South Bend.
No comeback this time.
"When you play a team with that kind of speed and that kind of talent and is as well-coached as they are, if you turn the ball over, you can't win," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "It was going to take our best game. I don't think we gave them our best game and they took advantage of it."
2022 Pac-12 Conference Standings