Saturday, December 3, 2011

December 03, 2011
Three Plays That Made the Difference: Pac-12 Championship Game

UCLA entered the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game a wounded animal with a lame duck coach. After suffering a 50-0 drubbing to cross town rival, the Bruins backed into the title game when Utah could not beat conference cellar dweller Colorado. The Bruins came in 6-6 overall and 5-4 in conference play. The Ducks, meanwhile, had thoroughly dismantled in-state rival Oregon State in the annual Civil War match-up to push their record to 10-2 overall and 8-1 in conference play this season.

Looking back at Friday's game, there were three plays that changed the game.


1st Quarter, 14:53

The Ducks, who like to play defense first to get a chance to gain an early possession advantage with a stop, were in business very early. On just the second play of the game, 2nd down and 5 yards to go, the Bruins quarterback, Kevin Prince, fumbled the ball giving possession to Oregon at the UCLA 39 yard line. Four plays later, LaMichael James rushed for a 30 yard touchdown to give the Ducks an early lead and a possession advantage.


1st Quarter, 12:00

After two possessions, the Bruins had zero total yards on just five plays. The Ducks had scored once. On the second play of their second possession, Darron Thomas completed a pass to De'Anthony Thomas that gained 17 yards. What began as a very promising play ended with a fumble by De'Anthony and a head injury that would sideline him the rest of the game. This would be a key loss as DAT is an electrifying player who could not be replaced. Making matters worse, the Ducks were perilously thin at the wide receiver position with Justin Hoffman still out with apparent concussion like symptoms and Keenan Lowe out with a hand injury.

The turnover would not be converted to points by the Bruins, but the damage was done to some early momentum as well as a very valuable player lost for the rest of the game.


4th Quarter, 9:44
On 2nd and 7 from the UCLA 43 yard line, LaMichael James took a hand-off and went to the left side for a 19 yard gain. Though the Ducks would ultimately turn the ball over on downs in this series, the play has meaning beyond this game. That play was, quite possibly, LaMichael James' last carry in Autzen Stadium.

A player whose rise to stardom came on the heels of Oregon's most embarrassing moment may have heard his last Autzen cheer. If James is to never play in Autzen Stadium again, we can still say that we had the chance to see one of the best ever. The first player in the conference to rush for 200 yards in three consecutive games since 1982, used the 19 yard run to secure his fourth 200 yard performance of the season. James is the first player in conference history to rush for 1500 yards or more in three different seasons. His play has been brilliant. Whatever stars Oregon brings out after his departure, none will be LaMichael James.


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