On a night that began with dark and gloomy weather above Autzen Stadium, the #9 Oregon Ducks took care of their business against an outmatched California Golden Bears team and came away with a 43-15 victory.
However, early in the fourth quarter a gruesome injury to star running back LaMichael James brought a silence to the sellout crowd in Eugene unlike anything most Duck fans have experienced.
At that point in the game James, who entered the game as the nation’s leading rusher, had amassed 239 rushing yards and a touchdown and was close to adding another score. James had already clinched his third consecutive 200+ yard rushing performance and was within shouting distance of breaking his own single-game school record of 288 yards, which he set in his last game against Arizona.
James tried to run up the middle inside the Cal 10-yard line, but was forced to the ground and fumbled the ball before writhing in pain to the gasps and whispers of the stunned Oregon crowd. Chants of “LaMichael James” came from the spectators as eyes remained glued to the fallen playmaker surrounded by trainers and teammates.
When a replay surfaced on the jumbo-tron, many looked away as a slow motion image of James’ arm being bent back at the elbow flashed across the screen before quickly being taken down.
James was taken off the field on a cart, his arm in an air-cast and a grimace on his face. Every Ducks fan watched that cart disappear down the tunnel, wondering if they had seen the last of their Heisman hopeful for the season.
Oregon went on to punch the ball over the goal line, finishing the scoring for the night.
The game was no longer competitive at that point, but that was not the case in the first half.
Oregon’s offense, led by James and quarterback Darron Thomas, sputtered in the first half and the Ducks went into halftime losing to the Bears 15-14.
The second half was a different game for the Ducks. They blasted out of the break and ran off 29 unanswered points and put an end to any thoughts of an upset bid by the Golden Bears.
By the end of the game Oregon has gained 563 total yards, 365 of which were on the ground. The Ducks did not score after James suffered the injury with over 14 minutes remaining in the game, lowering their season average of 52 points per game which paced all FBS teams.
The Ducks defense stayed true to their colors. They flew around, played physically and seemed to be in good position all night. Also as usual for Oregon, the statistics will not show how well they played.
Though Oregon only relented 15 points (all in the first half), they did allow 465 total yards in the game and failed to force a turnover.
California wide receiver Keenan Allen gave the Ducks problems all night, using his size and speed to haul in 9 receptions for 170 yards and a touchdown.
Going forward the Oregon defense will need to find a way to cut down the opposing offenses. It is only a matter of time before teams figure out how to put the ball in the endzone when the Ducks give them chances.
One of those teams will come into Autzen Stadium to play Oregon next week when south division favorites #22 Arizona State travels to Eugene.
The big question coming away from the Cal game is clearly going to be the status of James. The Ducks have a stable of running backs that compares more closely to a track team than a college football team. Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas will be able to fill in for James.
But according to James, they may not have to.
James spoke to the media after the game and shocked everyone with his calmness, acting as though no injury even occurred. He confirmed that it was a dislocated elbow and that x-rays were negative and promising.
He told the media that he popped in his dislocated elbow on the field even before the Oregon training staff reached him. In high school James had suffered the same exact injury and played the following week.
Some may remember that in the NBA postseason Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo dislocated his elbow in a game against the Miami Heat and returned to action about an hour later.
Though a full and quick recovery is expected, saying James will be available for the matchup with the Sun Devils is still hopeful at this point.
But as James has proven in the past, you can never count him out. As opposing defenses have also learned, you can’t bring him down either. His determination to help his team succeed will have him back in a Ducks uniform soon.
So breathe Oregon fans, believe in LaMichael James. If he says he can do it, you will be hard pressed to find someone that tells him otherwise.
Even if you found that someone, he wouldn’t listen. Some players won’t be stopped.
James can’t be stopped. And he intends to prove it.
About the Author
Written by Rob Parness
My name is Robbie Parness and I am a student at the University of Oregon. I'm a California native that loves to play, watch and talk about all kinds of sports. I would love to become a sports writer someday or work in sports in any capacity.