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Friday, October 22, 2010
Oregon bludgeons UCLA

By Ted Miller

EUGENE, Ore. -- The United States of College Football Fans wanted a blockbuster, but Oregon said "whatever" and put on a lousy show. Boring! There was no drama in the Ducks' 60-13 vivisecting of UCLA. There was no suspenseful moment when you sat on the edge of your seat. There was no "Rocky Balboa" getting off the canvas. There was no sports poetry whatsoever. It was just a one-sided brutalizing that probably had mommies and daddies across the country covering their children's eyes.

Darron Thomas
Darron Thomas completed 22 of 31 passes for 308 yards and three TDs without an interception. He also rushed for 48 yards.
You could almost imagine Ducks coach Chip Kelly walking to midfield among the bloodied Bruins and shouting in his best gladiator voice, "Are you not entertained?"

Well, no. Much of the country probably yawned and went to bed at halftime when it was 32-3, and it was already abundantly clear that UCLA might be able to deliver a whipping at Texas, but it could not stay on the field with the Ducks.

Oregon provided no drama. Instead, it provided clarity. Is this team worthy of being ranked No. 1? Yes. Are the Ducks national title contenders? Yes. If you have eyes, and managed to keep them open for all four quarters, there is no other conclusion to draw about now-7-0 Oregon, owners of an absurdly dominant offense and a defense that is pretty salty, too.

The Ducks piled up 582 yards and held UCLA to just 290. The Ducks averaged 8 yards a play -- nearly double the Bruins' 4.1 -- against a defense that shut down Texas and Houston. Heck, only eight of the Ducks' 73 plays were even third downs.

"The week off was good for us," coach Chip Kelly said.

Was it the Ducks' most complete performance of the year? Kelly shrugged off the question, saying he liked how his team overcame adversity at Tennessee. As for whether this performance might have won over some folks who don't watch the Ducks play much, Kelly said, "That's the same way we performed in all seven games. They should tune in more."

There were a lot of philosophical answers from the Ducks after the game. This is a team that is comfortable being No. 1 because it doesn't really seem to care.

"We don't look at it like we're the top-ranked team," sophomore running back LaMichael James said. "We just look at it like we're the Oregon Ducks."

Wow. Existential. James then asked reporters to try to grab a pebble from his hand. None could. That didn't actually happen, but he did channel Public Enemy by telling a media horde in search of just a little bluster that the Ducks are trying to "not believe the hype."

Brandon Bair
Brandon Bair and the Oregon defense held UCLA to just six points until a late touchdown. The Ducks forced three turnovers and had three sacks.
Oregon played at ludicrous speed again on offense. James, who briefly terrified Ducks fans by needing to be helped off the field in the first quarter but only had his breath knocked out of him, eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the 14th time in his career with 123 yards on 20 carries with two TDs. But the star of the night was sophomore quarterback Darron Thomas, whose rapid development is astonishing. He completed 22 of 31 passes for a career-high 308 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Ducks came out throwing early, and Thomas completed his first 11 passes.

"You've got to loosen people up, and we've got some really talented receivers," Kelly said of the slightly surprising pass-happy start.

As for the defense, it had 10 tackles for a loss and three sacks and forced three turnovers, giving them 25 takeaways this season.

"Our guys are really playing downhill football," Kelly said.

The Ducks will be going down south to USC on Oct. 30. Based on how well the Trojans played against California in a 48-14 win last weekend, that could be a highly competitive game and a potential stumbling point for a team that probably needs to be perfect to play for the national title. Moreover, USC will have had an extra week to prepare for the Ducks' relentless offense.

"We know we will get everything from them," Kelly said.

The Ducks now wear the target that the Trojans used to own. Oregon is the team everybody wants a piece of. Or thinks they want a piece of.

This was not an entertaining game. But it was hard to not be impressed by the performance.