It was something to behold, watching Oregon’s football team run up and down Auzten Stadium, scoring nearly at will, and at times resembling a track team rather than one wearing helmets and shoulder pads.
Nothing new, and it won’t be as long as Head Coach Chip Kelly is in charge of an offense that came in averaging 57 points.
After spotting Stanford an 18-point first-quarter lead, the Ducks went on the attack, scoring four second-half touchdowns, and swallowing the Cardinal, 52-31, last Saturday in a Pacific 10 Conference showdown.
“We wanted to play 60 minutes, and we didn’t,’’ said Kelly. “Our defense was strong in the second half, but I can’t take credit for that. I’m the offensive coordinator.”
Oregon (5-0 and 2-0 in conference) was ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press poll. The three teams in front also won, with top-ranked and host Alabama trouncing Florida, 31-6, No. 2 Ohio State surviving on the road at Illinois, 24-13, while No. 3 Boise State blanked host New Mexico State, 59-0.
Out of the halftime break, Oregon, the defending conference champion, tied it at 31-31 when quarterback Darron Thomas (20 of 29 for 238 yards and two interceptions) scored on a six-yard run with 8:20 left in the third quarter.
Then came the game-changing play when Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck hit wide receiver Chris Owusu (52 yards and six catches) on a quick pass, but was hammered by Javes Lewis, who loosened the ball, and which Eddie Pleasant recovered and returned 49 yards to the Cardinal three-yard line.
It took running back LaMichael James (game-high 257 yards on 31 carries) one play to give Oregon (626 total net yards) a 38-31 lead with 5:34 left in the same quarter.
Thomas (117 yards and 15 carries) found wide receiver D.J. Davis with a 25-yard scoring toss early in the fourth quarter, and James finished off the affair with an eye-catching 76-yard burst that made it a 21-point deficit and 1:10 showing.
Thomas connected with wide receiver Jeff Maehl on a 29-yard pass and just over 13 minutes left in the second quarter, closing the gap to 21-10. Oregon moved within 21-17 when James scored on a five-yard gallop about two minutes later.
When Thomas found wide receiver Josh Huff with a 41-yard pass, Oregon pulled within 28-24 as 5:41 remained in the second quarter.
Luck was in the pink during the early going, but his No. 9-ranked team fizzled in the second half, failing to score a point.
Luck put Stanford (4-1 and 1-1 in conference) ahead 7-3 when he hit wide receiver Griff Whalen (78 yards and five receptions) with an 18-yard pass and 5:14 left in the opening quarter, and Luck (29 of 46 for 341 yards and two interceptions) tacked on a 10-yard run about a minute later giving Stanford a 14-3 edge.
Stanford was rolling, this time running back Stephan Taylor (113 yards on 17 carries) exploding for a 44-yard touchdown and a 21-3 lead with 1:08 left in the first quarter.
The record crowd of 59,818 was rightfully stunned, but in time would yell itself hoarse.
Stanford (518 total yards) scored 10 points in the second quarter, with Luck hitting wide receiver Cody Fleener on a 36-yard strike, and Nate Whitaker drilling a 46-yard field goal as time ran out before the half.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.