Ducks Pac-12 Champs

Eugene – The Oregon Ducks (11-2, 8-1) won the Pac-12 Conference Championship in front of a sellout crowd of 59,376 and for the second time in three years will play in the Rose Bowl on January 1. Oregon won impressively by racking up 571 yards of total offense. Spearheaded by the game's Most Valuable Player, LaMichael James, the Ducks were never in any serious trouble against the UCLA Bruins.

(PHOTO) Oregon Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas celebrates with the fans following the game against the UCLA Bruins during the Pac-12 Championship game at Autzen Stadium. Oregon defeated UCLA 49-31. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

"I thought it was a great effort by our players to come in on a short week," Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly said of this team's effort against UCLA. "I knew last Sunday when these guys showed up early, about an hour and half early for lifting at 10:15, that was their mindset. It's a great group."

LaMichael James finished the game rushing for 219 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries giving him a total of 1,646 yards for the season and became the first player in conference history to rush for 1,500 or more yards three times in his career. James also passed former USC star and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen for third on the Pac-12's career rushing list and stands now with 4,923 yards in his three seasons as the featured Oregon running back. After the game the crowd chanted "one more year" hoping James would heed the plea and return for his senior season as a Duck. If he does so several more marks can be established. James is now tied with for USC back LenDale White for the most rushing touchdowns at 52.

"He's special," Kelly said of James. "I think you watch what he does in the classroom, you watch what he does in the community, it's not just a football thing with him. It's the way he lives his life."

James was not the only record setter on Friday night. Darron Thomas became the school's leader in touchdown passes with 63, passing Danny O'Neal (1991-94). Thomas is also the first Duck to ever have consecutive 30 touchdown seasons. Thomas was 20-for-36, 219 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 60 yards and had a personal best with a 40 yard run. On one of his runs he scored from 10 yards out.

"I'm very excited to get the record," admitted Thomas. "Got a lot more to go. Very excited that I can get to it. Happy to be on the list with a lot of good Oregon quarterbacks, great Oregon quarterbacks."

Kenjon Barner rushed for 79 net yards on 17 carries and had two receptions for nine yards. Josh Huff was the leading receiver with four catches for 57 yards including a long of 31. Daryle Hawkins had three grabs for 38 yards including a touchdown catch covering 25 yards. David Paulson caught a touchdown pass among his two catches and the tight end position scored against with Colt Lyerla hauling one in for six.

I think what you saw out of Josh (Huff), I think he's gotten healthy," Kelly said appraising Josh Huff's performance. "That's the type of playmaker he is."

De'Anthony Thomas saw limited action as he left the game after a helmet-to-helmet contact, but while he was in he had two catches for 13 yards but fumbled on the play that knocked him out of the game.

"I kind of felt like it was a helmet to helmet," said De'Anthony Thomas. "I'm going to be ok."

Even though he was out of the game, Darron Thomas felt De'Anthony Thomas still played a role.

"De'Anthony is one of the big-time players on our team," said Darron Thomas. "He did a great job on the sidelines keeping guys up. Really, we're a team. It's not about one guy going down and we're going to be done. We played through the end, played for De'Anthony all game. We talked to him some on the sideline. He stayed up. Happy that he's going to be all right."

Oregon had a total of 352 yards of rushing.

Defensively, the Ducks were paced by John Boyett's 12 tackles (seven solos). Oregon recorded four sacks with Michael Clay having two sacks. Taylor Hart and Dion Jordan had a sack each. Terrance Mitchell recorded an interception and there were a total of eight break ups.

"They've been our guys all year long," Kelly said of the defensive unit. "You just marvel at the effort they play with. When we need big plays, they come up with it."

UCLA had 337 yards of total offense. Quarterback Kevin Prince was 13-for-26 for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Prince also rushed for 31 net yards with one run ending in a score, but was knocked out of the game briefly and was replaced by Richard Brehaut who was 1-for-2 for13 yards but gave up one interception. Derrick Coleman had 83 net yards or rushing. Nelson Rosario had six catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns including one spectacular one handed catch for a score. The Bruins also scored on an interception by Patrick Larimore. Tevin McDonald was the leading tackler with nine (seven solos).

Following the game, the Pac-12 Conference Championship Trophy was given to Kelly, who then asked the crowd to be still and told the crowd the trophy was going to ousted University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere. Kelly was asked if that was a spur-of-the-moment decision on his part.

"No, I didn't plan on it," Kelly admitted. "Trust me, this wasn't the Oscars. We weren't planning acceptance speeches or anything like that. I think the world of that man (Lariviere). I think he's a visionary. I think he's brilliant. He's a great friend of this program. More importantly, he's a great fried of not only just the student-athletes here, but all the students. He's a classy guy and he deserved it (the trophy)."

Two weeks ago Lariviere was informed by the State Board of Higher Education that his contract would not be renewed. The dismissal of Lariviere has created a great controversy among the University of Oregon faculty, students and alumni who were outraged by the actions of Oregon Governer John Kitzhaber in firing the popular college president.

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