The Texarkana Rose Delivers Ducks To Pasadena

In what may have been his final game at Autzen Stadium, Oregon junior running back LaMichael James exited in grand style, rushing for 219 yards and three touchdowns in the Ducks' Rose Bowl clinching win over UCLA in Pac-12 Championship game.

The book on LaMichael James' career at Oregon is nearly closed. The final chapter has yet been written of course, though everything prelude is as remarkable as anything ever witnessed from the running back position in school history.

In only three years of action, James has redefined the standard for excellence at the position and set the bar to Everest-esque heights that may not be summited for quite sometime.

On Friday night, in a game that would see Oregon capture their third consecutive conference championship along with a third straight BCS bowl game appearance, James rushed for 219 yards on 25 carries, scoring three times and putting an emphatic dry-erase exclamation point on a truly transcendent tenure in Eugene.

"He's this university," said Oregon head coach Chip Kelly of James after the game. "I think our president (Richard Lariviere) said it once, and I truly believe this, this university is about unique excellence. That's what this young man is about. He's about unique excellence."

Unique excellence has become commonplace for James since assuming the reigns as the Ducks' starting running back in 2009 after the suspension of LeGarrette Blount following the Boise State game. James' 200-plus yard effort on the ground against the Bruins was his fourth such game this season, the most of any running back in college football this year.

The stat is even more impressive considering James missed two games in the middle of the season due to an elbow injury suffered against California.

"He's special," said Kelly.

And really, that's the only way to describe the player who was once so homesick that he had his bags packed, ready to head home to Texarkana, Texas during his redshirt year.

James stayed, and by the time the scoreboard clock read 0:00 and confetti rained down on him and his celebrating teammates as they raised the inaugural Pac-12 Championship trophy, James had laid claim to some of the most impressive records in conference history.

James not only passed former USC running back Marcus Allen for third on the Pac-12's career rushing list (4,923 yards) and tied USC's LenDale White for second in conference history for career rushing touchdowns (52), but he became the first player in the illustrious history of the conference to rush for more than 1,500 yards three or more times in a career.

"It means a lot," remarked James of his records. "Reach for the sky. I think it really starts in practice. Coach Kelly does an amazing job of getting us going in practice, getting the best out of all of us."

What lies ahead for James and the Ducks is certain: A January 2 date in Pasadena. Yet, still to be decided however, is their opponent for that game. Wisconsin and Michigan State square off in Indianapolis Saturday evening for the right to face the Ducks in the 98th edition of the Tournament of Roses. While the opponent likely doesn't matter much for Kelly, James and the Ducks, reaching the game is a watershed moment for any college football program.

"To play in the ‘Granddaddy Of Them All', if you don't have a chance to play -- obviously because of our two losses -- in the national championship, there's no other game you'd rather play in than the Rose Bowl.

"It's the pinnacle."

And for James, it's the chance to author a storybook ending to an utterly magical career.

Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney

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