Oregon has been known for its high-octane offense under former head coach Chip Kelly.
With Kelly in Philadelphia, questions loom about Oregon’s offense and if it will still function at blur speed and how the transition will work from Kelly to his right-hand man Mark Helfrich. While all those questions will be answered throughout the season, one thing that isn’t a mystery is the number of big plays that happened in the Kelly era.
We continue our countdown of the top plays with Kelly at the helm. This week, we run with the offense:
5. LaMichael James’ 72-yard touchdown run vs. Tennessee – 2010
This play is in the top five for a number of reasons. It proved James’ ability to turn a rush for a loss into a touchdown. It also sparked Oregon to a 48-13 win against a formidable SEC opponent.
The play started with James taking a handoff from Darron Thomas and running to the right. He was cut off by the Tennessee front line and reversed field, simply outrunning the entire Tennessee defense down the left sideline for a touchdown and 20-13 lead.
4. D.J. Davis’ 29-yard catch on fourth and 5 vs. Auburn – 2011
While many Duck fans may not remember this play, it was truly one of the best under Kelly.
Playing for the national championship, Oregon was trailing Auburn 19-11 late in the fourth quarter. Oregon’s game-tying drive was in the midst of failing when the Ducks faced a fourth down 5 yards from Auburn’s 40.
Thomas dropped back and hit Davis on a cross route that he turned into a 29-yard gain to Auburn’s 11-yard line. Oregon would go on to score and eventually tie the game.
This play often gets overlooked, but few remember that without this catch by Davis, Oregon wouldn’t have had a chance for the natty.
3. De’Anthony Thomas’ touchdown run vs. Wisconsin – 2012
Thomas made the most of this opportunity when he got the ball against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Oregon was looking for their first Rose Bowl victory in 95 years and Thomas made sure they would get it.
In two carries, Thomas reached the end zone on runs of 91 and 64 yards for a final stat line on two carries for 155 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 72.5 yards per carry.
Thomas’ first touchdown came on the last play of the first quarter when he took a handoff, and sprinted, untouched, up the middle of the defense. The second touchdown came at the beginning of the third quarter when Thomas took a handoff and ran down the left sideline, once again going untouched.
These two plays introduced Thomas to the national audience and cemented him as one of the biggest playmakers in college football.
2. Jeff Maehl two-point conversion vs. Auburn – 2011
This play gave Oregon hope and life in the national championship game against Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton.
With Oregon scoring a touchdown with only 2:33 left in the game, the Ducks needed the two-point conversion to tie the game.
Thomas got the snap, rolled right and then threw back to a leaping Maehl. Maehl wrestled the ball away from an Auburn defender while staying in bounds and tying the game.
1. Dickson touchdown catch to force OT vs. Arizona – 2009
While this play may not get the national attention the others did, it was the single most important play under Kelly.
With Oregon trailing the Arizona Wildcats late in the fourth quarter, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli hit Ed Dickson in the back of the end zone for a touchdown with six seconds left. Oregon would go on to win the game in double overtime. Wildcat fans were down on the sidelines, ready to rush the field because they believed they had the victory, but had to retreat into the stands to endure a heartbreaking loss, something no Duck fan will ever forget.