Ducks Storm Back for 48-29 Win

Eugene -- The Oregon Ducks, (11-0, 8-0) secured at least a share of the Pac-10 title by roaring back 48-29 over a determined Arizona Wildcat team. Trailing 19-14 at halftime, the Ducks pulled out the stops by racking up 362 yards of total offense in the second half to pull away and make one more step toward a birth in the BCS Championship game.

(PHOTO) Darron Thomas (1) runs the ball in for a touchdown as Oregon beats Arizona 48-29 at Autzen Stadium on Friday night. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

"We came out at halftime and did what we pride ourselves on doing," said Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly. "It's about battling and playing until the end of the game."

While the offense gets the spot light in this game it was crucial defensive stands in the third quarter that caused the Arizona Wildcats to give up the ball and that subsequently ignited five straight possessions that the Oregon Ducks scored touchdowns.

"We knew it would be a battle; it was an unbelievable football game," added Kelly, "You're going to make mistakes, it's a battle, but you just have to play until the end. This team just knows it's not over until the final gun."

For the game the Ducks racked up 537 total yards, 389 yards rushing the ball. Oregon relied on the legs of LaMichael James, 126 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns. James has now reached the 100-yard mark for the 17th time (eighth this season) and the two touchdowns increases the number of scores this season to 19, and which is ninth in Pac-10 history for single season rushing touchdowns. A newcomer to the 100-yard rushing mark was Josh Huff who had 103 yards including an 85-yard scamper for touchdown. Kenjon Barner showed he is completely back from a mid-season concussion with a 71-yard rushing effort on 15 carries. Quarterback Darron Thomas rushed for one touchdown during his 62-yards of running the ball plus he threw for 148 yards and three touchdowns.

"Darron's special," Kelly said of his quarterback. "He keeps getting better each game. I bet he wants that one pass back, but nothing rattles Darron."

David Paulson was the leading gainer in receiving with 48 yards on three catches including being on the right end of Thomas' first touchdown pass of 38 yards in the first quarter. Drew Davis also had three receptions for 31 yards and caught Thomas' second TD throw. James had three catches for 20 yards while Jeffery Maehl caught two throws for 27 yards and he also pulled in Thomas' third scoring toss. Maehl tied the Oregon career mark for receiving touchdowns with 24, while recording a TD in nine straight games. He also extended his receiving string to 32 straight games with at least one catch per game.

"There were a lot of smiles in the locker room," said Davis. "These guys know what they've accomplished."

Arizona caused some Duck fans nerves to be on edge with a strong performance in the first half. The Wildcats were able to pick off Thomas on the first drive of the game and then turnaround and go 60 yards in 16 plays to take a 7-0 lead following a point after when quarterback Nick Foles found Juron Criner for a touchdown. It was the first of two hook-ups between Foles and Criner. The second score was on broken coverage when Criner was alone and took off for 85 yards and scored without being touched. The Ducks helped Arizona's cause when it had the ball deep in its own territory and attempted to punt only to have the ball go sailing over Alejandro Maldanado's head and through the endzone for a safety. Maldanado was brought out of his redshirt year when punter took ill before the game started.

"I haven't seen quarterback play like that in a long time," complimented Kelly. "Nick Foles is a really, really good quarterback. He did a great job extending the play, he played great tonight."

Foles also hit Dave Roberts for a 31-yard scoring play in the fourth quarter. Overall, Foles was 29-for-54, 448 yards and three touchdowns but he gave up on interception to John Boyett . Foles was also sacked once by Spencer Paysinger.

"We played good in the second half," said Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti. "We played well in the first half except for one busted coverage…the quy (Foles) is a good quarterback. He threw the ball 54 times, that's a lot."

As well as Foles was throwing the ball, in the third quarter the Duck defenders were having none of it and stopped the first two possessions of the second half and responded by scoring. Leading 19-14 Arizona had the ball on the first possession of the half but were forced to punt after three snaps. Thomas threw one incomplete pass but on the second play of the possession, he ran to the left and pitched to Huff who broke off the 85-yard scoring run. Oregon took the lead 20-19 after failing to convert a 2-poin attempt. Arizona took the ensuing kickoff and moved to Oregon's 41 when the Ducks stiffened up and forced a punt that went out of bounds at the Oregon 1. Visions of another safety were erased when the Ducks drove the ball 99-yards and capped off with Thomas running the ball in from the Arizona 20 to put the Ducks up 27-19 after the PAT.

On the very next drive Arizona managed to cut the lead to 27-22 after a Alex Zendejas 41-yard field goal.

The Ducks managed to put together a six play, 75-yard drive that culminated with Thomas hitting Davis for the score and Oregon extended its lead to 34-22. The Ducks bumped the score to 41-22 on the next drive with Arizona was forced to punt that was field at the Arizona 35. It only took five plays for the ball to get in the endzone on James' first score of the night. His second score came just a few moments later when Robby Beard kicked off and Arizona's Mike Turner fumbled the ball after a big hit by Oregon's Brian Jackson. Scott Grady recovered the ball on the Arizona 8 and it was lights out. Two plays later James smashed in and after the PAT it was 48-27.

The Ducks gave up only the second touchdown in the fourth quarter for the year when Foles hit Roberts and that made the score the same as the final, 48-29 following the point after.

Defensively, Boyett was the leading tackler with eight (seven solos). Casey Matthews also had eight tckles (four solos). Brandon Littlejohn had six (three solos). In all 23 Ducks recorded tackles.

"We just had to keep enduring and go out how we practiced all week," said senior defensive tackle Brandon Bair. "It was an amazing feeling, hugging all those guys and celebrating with all the seniors. It's great to see how far we've come."

The win ensured Oregon at least a tie for the Pac-10 Championship. Up next is Oregon State and the Civil War. A win ensure the Ducks a berth in the BCS Championship game. All season long, the Ducks have kept on Kelly's mantra to "Win the Day" but now the quest is clear, win the day against Oregon State and it is into the most upper echelon of college football, yet the attitude this team has displayed all year still is in tact.

"We understand they are going to come out and give us their best shot," said Maehl of next week's showdown with the Beavers. "We've just got to get back to work."

- James set a new single season scoring record of 120 points, eclipsing Nathan Villegas, who had 117 in 1996. He also has a total of 1,548 yards for the season.
- Thomas ranks fifth on Oregon's single-season list for total offense with 2,869 yards.
- Maehl ranks No. 5 on the list for single season receptions with 61.
- Huff's 85-yard run was the longest scoring play of the season.
- Ducks are 3-0 against top-25 teams this season.
- A new record was set in total points scored for a season with 555 points, the old record was 545, which was scored in 13 games last season.
- Dustin Haines made his first appearance as a holder in the game.
- The 85-yard scoring play by Crier was the longest score Oregon has given up this season.
- Oregon celebrated Senior Day with the 40th win in 50 games over the past four seasons.
- Oregon is 23-3 in Pac-10 play since the start of the 2008 season.
- Friday's attendance of 59,990 was the team's 74th consecutive sellout, dating to 1999, and the second largest crowd in Autzen Stadium history.

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