Thomas Terrorizes Stanford In Win

When all hope for an Oregon victory appeared to hang in the balance early in the first half against Andrew Luck and the No. 9 Stanford Cardinal, Oregon sophomore quarterback Darron Thomas rose to the occasion, shaking off two stinging interceptions to help lead the Ducks to victory.

As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Oregon sophomore quarterback Darron Thomas personified that principle with his performance during Saturday night's win at the hands of the 9th ranked Stanford Cardinal at Autzen Stadium before the largest crowd to ever witness a sporting event in the state of Oregon. Thomas, who entered Saturday as the forgotten man in his duel with Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck, arguably outplayed his counterpart, accounting for 355 yards of total offense and four of his team's seven touchdowns in the Ducks' 52-31 victory. Luck, who was a rival of Thomas' from their days as high schoolers in Houston, Tex., held a 2-0 edge over Thomas; a ledger that Thomas appeared determined to change.

"This was a big game for me," said Thomas who admitted he had some jitters as the game got underway. "I came in with a chip on my shoulder knowing I was playing Andrew Luck again and that I was defeated by him twice. I told the team that and they knew that and they wanted me to come out on top."

Coming out on top looked like an exceedingly tall order as the Cardinal rattled off 21 unanswered points in the first quarter after the Ducks took an early 3-0 on a 22 yard field goal by Rob Beard. Thomas, who was white hot on the Ducks' opening drive, cooled off considerably, contributing two first half interceptions that assisted in the proverbial hole that Oregon was digging for itself. The first pick came off a poor read on a dump off pass, which Stanford immediately cashed in for six on their first play from scrimmage after the turnover. The second came just before halftime as the Ducks were driving after clawing their way to within 4, leading to a Cardinal field goal just before halftime to extend the Stanford lead to 31-24. However, according Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, panic was the last thing that set in for Thomas.

"That guy is resilient," stated Helfrich of his young quarterback. "The first thing he said to me on the phone (after the second interception) and the first thing he said to me at halftime was, 'Gotta take care of the ball'. There's a lot of guys who are wishy washy after a series, but he's 'Yes sir, it was the WILL, or it was the free (safety)''s neat. It was very black and white in terms of what he saw and what he didn't see and he was moving on to the next series."

Oregon head coach Chip Kelly echoed Helfrich's comments, calling his quarterback "tremendous" and "poised" when it appeared the Ducks' were floored and Stanford was seemed ready to prepare the final nail.

"He doesn't get rattled," said Kelly of Thomas. "We didn't really know (how he'd react). He kind of showed a glimpse two years ago when came off the bench against Boise State in the fourth quarter, but when he came off the bench in the fourth against Boise, he didn't know what he didn't know...I saw it in the Tennessee game and I saw it in the Arizona State game and I saw it again here."

Aside from Thomas' 20-of-29 passing performance for 238 yards and 3 touchdowns, Thomas was maybe most potent running the ball, tallying 117 yards on 15 carries including a 6-yard touchdown run on a speed option to tie the game at 31 a piece in the third quarter that utterly undressed a Stanford defender.

"We started off the first drive making some mistakes on that play," said Thomas. "We went back to it (in the third quarter), the coaches trusted me in reading the pitch key, and we did a good job."

Leading up to the game, Kelly stood by his quarterback who was criticized some for not keeping the ball more. After the game, the Oregon head coach was quick to remind anyone who'd listen that Thomas was indeed a bonafide rushing threat.

"He can run the ball," railed Kelly. "He ran for a 117 yards, so we can put those rumors to bed that the kid can't run the football. He's everything we want in a quarterback."

Heading into next week's game at Pullman versus Washington State, the onus is on the Ducks to maintain focus and guard against a what would be an epic let down against a Cougar team that has failed to win a Pac-10 conference game since 2008. As the guy who is not so quietly assuming a major leadership on this veteran laden Oregon team, Thomas understands his role moving forward.

"I'm coming in making sure that our team isn't overwhelmed by this victory," said Thomas.

"We're gonna come in on Monday and go to work."

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