Posted by Bryan Fischer
EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon ran over UCLA so bad Friday night, they might have beaten the Bruins back to Los Angeles.
They'll make the trip down, to Pasadena to be precise, in a month but took care of business against an overwhelmed South representative to win the conference in the first ever Pac-12 championship game 49-31.
The Ducks will head to the Rose Bowl looking for their first win since 1917, Rick Neuheisel will head home with out a job. The recently fired head coach said the team was ready to shock the world.
They scored, shockingly, for the first time since November 19th.
UCLA lost the coin toss and, despite a few plays that gave them life, were never in the game from that point. The Pac-12 championship game was never about them however.
"We end the season with three teams in the top 10 and what looks like two BCS bowl teams for the second year in a row," commissioner Larry Scott said during his state of the conference address. "And seven bowl-eligible teams and what would have been eight."
That eighth team, USC, was the reason why UCLA "represented" the South division despite going .500 on the year . The athletic department brass didn't think too highly of their chances and applied for - and were granted - a waiver to go to a bowl game despite a 6-7 record. While the Bruins will likely end up in San Francisco for the game, the Trojans sat at home serving out the final year of their bowl ban and watched two teams they beat.
"All-in-all, I still think it's been a strong season," Scott continued. "The Pac-12 and the SEC are the only conferences to have three teams in the top 10. The conference is clearly establishing itself as a perennial, elite football conference."
The night showed off the good and bad of West Coast football. In front of a national audience, Oregon showed how good it could be. UCLA showed how far they had to go. Despite some sloppy play on both sides of the ball, the Ducks ran into the record books as easy as their running backs ran into the end zone.
LaMichael James became the first player in conference history to post three 1,500+ yard rushing seasons. He passed some guy named Marcus Allen on the career rushing list and moved into second place on the Pac-12 rushing touchdowns list. Darron Thomas became the school's career leader in touchdown passes (63) and had a career-long run. The Ducks set school records for rushing yards and touchdown passes.
Duck. Duck. Duck. Rose.
UCLA's Pistol offense was shooting blanks most of the night when it wasn't the players in the foot with turnovers. Still, they put up more points than many expected after coming in as the biggest underdog in postseason play according to Vegas insiders. There were positive plays, such as Kevin Prince flea-flicker to Nelson Rosario for a 37 yard touchdown. There were negative ones too, such as Derrick Coleman attempting to pitch the ball on a reverse despite the recipient being well past him. Oregon recovered and scored on 4th down on a Thomas touchdown pass to make it 35-14. The team fought hard but were simply outclassed by a Ducks team that seemed to be looking for style points ahead of their matchup against either Wisconsin or Michigan State the day after New Year's.
Head coach Chip Kelly made it a point to put up impressive numbers, using timeouts before halftime and going for it numerous times on 4th down. It may not have been the best show of sportsmanship but it did result in his third straight outright Pac-12 title as head coach. Winning the conference is one thing but if he wants to take the program to the next level, he'll have to get over the hump of winning a BCS game. Kelly has a .500 record against teams with two or more weeks to prepare so something will have to change.
Friday night however, nothing changed for Oregon. They ran their way to another win and in this case, plenty of roses.