Throughout much of the first quarter, it looked as though Oregon was still shaking off the rust from last week’s home loss to USC.
Yet before long, junior quarterback Darron Thomas found his rhythm in the passing game to lead the 10th-ranked Ducks to a 49-21 victory over Oregon State in the 115th Civil War Saturday afternoon at Autzen Stadium.
Oregon (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) officially won the Pac-12 North Division and secured an eighth home game of the season, and third in three weeks, when they host Pac-12 South Division champion UCLA (6-5, 5-3) on Friday, Dec. 2 at 5 p.m.
“It’s a real quick (turnaround), we’ve got to go to work in terms of getting everything broken down,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. “But as a coaching staff, tomorrow’s our Monday and we’ve got to get going real quick because the game’s on Friday night.”
The Ducks overcame a sluggish first quarter offensively with a 21-point second quarter to take a 28-7 lead into halftime. Oregon uncharacteristically won the time of possession battle in the opening half and got touchdowns from four different players.
Thomas certainly looked shaky at times, but completed 15-of-25 passes in the first two quarters without a turnover. Senior tight end David Paulson set a new career-high with six receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown to lead the Ducks early on, while Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas pulled in touchdown passes on two of Oregon’s final three possessions to end the half.
“They were kind of overcommitted a couple times in the run game,” offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. “(Paulson) did a great job getting vertical and finding a seam.”
Paulson finished with eight receptions and 105 yards —both career highs — and one touchdown. De’Anthony Thomas finished with 10 catches for 86 yards, and also carried the ball four times for another 71 yards to finish with a game-high 197 all-purpose yards.
Junior LaMichael James ran for 110 of his 142 yards in the first two quarters. His one-yard touchdown run during Oregon’s first possession put James at the top of the Ducks’ career scoring list with 324 points, one ahead of former kicker Jared Siegel.
James eventually left the game with a left arm injury midway through the third quarter, which Kelly said he “wasn’t concerned at all” about.
“I think he’s just excited that he gets to have fresh legs for UCLA,” junior Carson York said. “He was joking around in the locker room that he didn’t get any reps in the second half, he’s just excited that he’s gonna have some fresh legs to get after it against UCLA.”
Barner added a one-yard scoring run in a quiet third quarter, before freshman tight end Colt Lyerla pulled in his fourth touchdown reception of the season from 39 yards out to start the fourth quarter. The play capped a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive that milked 2:39 off the play clock and extended the Ducks’ lead to 42-7.
Oregon State added two scored late against Oregon’s reserves, and finished with 315 yards of total offense (299 passing and 16 rushing). Redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Mannion was sacked six times in the game and threw a pair of costly interceptions in the opening quarter.
Meanwhile, Thomas finished 27-of-40 for 305 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. For the second straight season, Thomas has won 10 games as a starter. His four touchdown passes on Saturday brought his season total to 27 (61 for his career) and extended his streak of games with at least one touchdown pass to 24.