Ducks scorch Wolf Pack

If you reached into your pack to pull out the sunscreen Saturday at Autzen Stadium, or ran to get another bottle of water at the concession stand, or perhaps spent a few moments cleaning the shades, you really ought not have.

Chances are you missed a bunch.

Like a touchdown toss from Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas — one of six on the day.

Or they-got-me-stopped-no-they-don’t punt return for a TD by versatile LaMichael James.

Or a scintillating sprint-juke-sprint for pay dirt by freshman sensation De’Anthony Thomas.

Remember that point-a-minute Oregon Duck team — the one that inexplicably disappeared in last January’s BCS championship game against Auburn and in this year’s season opener versus LSU?

Well, as the 58,818 who witnessed Saturday’s 69-20 bake job of Nevada will attest, the “blur” is back.

Way back.

Ready from the get-go in their home opener, the No. 13-ranked Ducks blistered the visiting Wolf Pack, rolling up 603 yards of total offense and scoring on seven of their first eight drives. Thomas’ six TD passes tied a school record set by Joey Harrington (twice) and Danny O’Neil.

Six of the team’s offensive touchdowns were from 20 yards out and longer.
One drive lasted eight seconds. Another one minute. A third 1:11. Yet another 1:13.

You get the picture.

And all that without playmakers Kenjon Barner and Josh Huff, who sat out the game with injuries.

By the time the sun set Saturday — a week after Oregon’s 40-27 defeat to LSU led some to question whether the Ducks were overrated — the rest of the Pac-12 was back to being a little restless about the defending champs.

“I came out this game really determined to not let the last game happen,” Darron Thomas told reporters afterwards.

Head coach Chip Kelly said eliminating mistakes, in particular turnovers and penalties, was a big reason for the outburst.

“When we can get into a rhythm, our players settle down,” Kelly said.

The offense had help. Oregon picked off three Wolf Pack passes, with Troy Hill snuffing out a Nevada drive in the second quarter and Boseko Lokombo returning one 67 yards for a TD with just seconds left in the game. Oregon’s John Boyett also blocked a Nevada field-goal attempt.

Oregon’s defenders gave up plenty of ground — 510 total yards. They also repeatedly stiffened when the Wolf Pack threatened, particularly in the first half when the Ducks built their large lead.

But the game belonged to Oregon’s skill players.

Darron Thomas showed no signs of his off-kilter performance against LSU. He led the Ducks to a TD — a four-yard run by James — on their opening drive. By the time Thomas left the game in the third quarter, he had thrown for 295 yards, completing 13 of 19 attempts with no interceptions.

James had another subpar game on the ground — just 67 yards in 12 attempts. But he illustrated why he is one of the most dangerous players in the nation whenever he has the ball in his hands. He followed up his early TD run with a catch-and-run covering 44 yards and a TD in the second quarter. He then bulled his way for 58 yards and a TD on a punt return in the third. He finished with 181 all-purpose yards.

His backfield mate, De’Anthony Thomas, was the very definition of blur, piling up 204 all-purpose yards in his first game in Autzen. He took a hand-off from Thomas late in the first quarter and raced down the right sideline for 62 yards before getting knocked out of bounds at the 3-yard line. He scored on a 24-yard pass from Darron Thomas in the second quarter and on a 69-yard pass from Thomas in the third.

Public address announcer Don Essig twice uttered these words, “That was Thomas to Thomas.”

“Running onto the field gave me chills,” the true freshman said later. “The crowd was loud, and I was loving it.”

The love went both ways.

When Thomas scored his last TD, he juked two Nevada players into looking like paper dolls. The crowd roared. Seconds later he was back in the end zone.

And back where to where the Ducks are accustomed.

How the game was won: Darron Thomas threw four touchdown passes in a span of 11 minutes and 13 seconds (from late in the first quarter to the middle of the second quarter) as the Ducks built a 34-0 advantage. The four passes went to four different receivers — Lavassier Tuinei, LaMichael James, Rahsaan Vaughn and Colt Lyeria.

Turning point: The Ducks led 13-0 early in the second quarter, with Nevada threatening to score, when Oregon cornerback Troy Hill picked off Tyler Lantrip pass and returned the ball 45 yards. On the very next play, Thomas hit James for a 44-yard score and a 20-0 lead.

Stat of the game: Thomas’ six touchdown passes to five different receivers. His TD show tied a school record held by Joey Harrington and Danny O’Neil. His five TD passes in the first half are a new school mark.

Second guessing: Many of Oregon’s starters were still on the field late in the third quarter. One of them, linebacker Michael Clay, suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury with a couple minutes left in the third. The Ducks led at the time, 55-13.

What it means: The Ducks ended a two-game losing streak (Auburn, LSU) but more importantly served notice to the rest of the Pac-12 they will difficult to dethrone if Darron Thomas can continue to spread the ball around like he did Saturday.

What’s next: Missouri State, next Saturday, at Autzen Stadium

Last time they played: Have never played before.

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