Record-Breaking Night For Thomas
By Caroline Martin
A clear Oregon night met the Oregon Ducks and UCLA Bruins for the first ever Pac-12 Conference Championship game at Autzen Stadium on Friday.
Oregon ran away with the title, outscoring the Bruins 49-31 leading the Ducks to an 11-2 season. UCLA, ending 6-7 overall, put up a good fight, capitalizing on breaks in the Oregon defense, yet it was not enough to stop the fast-paced game of the Ducks.
Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas experienced not only the first Pac-12 Conference Championship Game, but broke conference, program, career and season records, climbing the charts among Oregon's elite.
Thomas set the Oregon career record for touchdown passes (63).
"I'm very excited to get the record, I've got a lot more to go," said Thomas.
Thomas had three touchdown passes to overtake Danny O'Neil, who previously held the record at 62.
"I'm happy to be on a list with a lot good Oregon quarterbacks, great Oregon quarterbacks, but this is my team, it's all for the line blocking for me each game, the receivers catching the ball, the running backs, blockers, it's all for the team, we're going to celebrate it as a team," said Thomas.
Thomas recorded a total of 30 touchdown passes this season, matching his 2010 season record. He becomes the first Oregon player to have two seasons with 30 touchdown passes each.
Without ever trailing, Oregon took an early lead and fought to keep it.
Scoring twice early in the first, and then again before the second, Oregon took a 21-7 lead in the first quarter.
Thomas had a 10-yard touchdown run followed by a 7-yard pass to Colt Lyerla.
UCLA rallied quickly on their first drive of the second quarter with a flea-flicker pass and run to the end zone to bring it to 21-14.
Yet the Ducks were back at it again with just under a 4-minute drive to bring it to 28-14 still in the second. Again, with 4:25 left in the half, the ducks pull out their second fourth down play and put the ball in the end zone with exactly a 1-minute drive and a 25-yard pass from Thomas, finding Daryle Hawkins bringing it to 35-14.
With four incomplete passes from Thomas late in the first half, Oregon could not score again and UCLA's Tyler Gonzales clenched a 44-yard field goal moving UCLA to 17 at the half.
After a hard hit on a fumble in the second quarter, De'Anthony Thomas did not return to the game.
"We're a team, we're not about one guy going down," said Darron Thomas. "We play for the end, we play through the end. I'm happy De'Anthony will be all right," he said.
"Darron is like a big brother to me," said DeAnthony Thomas. "We've been working together all summer and he's had a big impact on my year," he said.
Thomas recorded a season-high 60 rushing yards. His 40-yard run on Oregon's final scoring drive was also a career best.
"He had a big time play when we needed it," said Kelly.
"He's a smart quarterback and I think he's the toughest quarterback in this conference," said senior offensive lineman Mark Asper. "He could go toe to toe with anybody," he said.
UCLA scored in the third, bringing it to an 11 point game at 35-24. Yet Oregon responded again with James securing a 42-24 lead. Thomas found David Paulson in the end zone with a 22-yard pass, and with yet another good kick by Maldonado, Oregon stood 49-24.
The Bruins scored once more in the fourth, but it hardly phased the Ducks.
Oregon celebrated the first ever PAC-12 Championship game with a 49-31 finish.
"It's a pretty neat and an awesome part to experience it with our fans," Kelly said of the win and being at home.
By appearing in three straight BCS bowls, the Ducks have found the spotlight and new national recognition.
With the conference title being the sixth conference championship title for the Ducks, this will also be Oregon's sixth appearance at the Rose Bowl.