James and Thomas are No. 1 Oregon's dynamic duo

BY foxsports • November 23, 2010

Comedy has Penn & Teller, music has Lennon & McCartney and kids have Bert & Ernie.

This season college football has Oregon's LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, arguably one of the best offensive duos in the country. The running back/quarterback combo is credited with helping make top-ranked Oregon the offensive juggernaut it has become this season.

''It's an unbelievable 1-2 punch,'' said Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson, whose Sun Devils fell at home to the Ducks earlier this season.

Together Thomas and James have accounted for 45 total touchdowns, with Thomas averaging nearly 260 yards total offense and James averaging 158.

The Ducks overall are ranked second in the nation with 542.2 total yards per game, and they're atop the country with an average of 50.7 points per game.

''They complement each other very well,'' Arizona coach Mike Stoops said Tuesday of the pair.

The No. 20 Wildcats visit Autzen Stadium on Friday, with undefeated Oregon vying for its 11th victory this season. The Ducks have won 11 just once before, in 2001 when they finished at the Fiesta Bowl.

This season the Ducks are eying the national championship, and Thomas is convinced that if his team keeps doing what it has been doing this season, they'll have no trouble reaching that goal.

''It's just going out and performing, being physical, outplaying the other guys. It comes down to one-on-one battles,'' he said.

Thomas has thrown for 23 touchdowns this season and run for four more. He's averaging 222.5 yards passing per game and he's ranked 19th in the NCAA in passing efficiency (153.04).

The sophomore wasn't even Oregon's projected starter going into the season. The job was expected by many to go to fifth-year senior Nate Costa, but Thomas impressed his coaches in the final scrimmage of fall camp.

While he's a capable scrambler himself, with 434 rushing yards this season, he prefers to hand off to fellow sophomore James, the nation's leading running back with an average of 158 yards per game.

This week James was named one of the three finalists for the Doak Walker Award, honoring the nation's top running back. Oklahoma State senior Kendall Hunter and Wisconsin junior John Clay are also finalists.

James averages 12 points a game. He has 17 rushing touchdowns, second only to Northern Illinois back Chad Spann, who has 18 but has played in two more games. He has three games with 200 or more yards rushing.

Overall, he's rushed for 1,422 yards through nine games.

He missed Oregon's opener because he was suspended for a game by coach Chip Kelly after he pleaded guilty in the offseason to a misdemeanor harassment charge stemming from a fight with an ex-girlfriend.

The offseason trouble has raised recent questions about whether Heisman voters might not consider James for the coveted trophy. He is considered one of the top candidates for the award.

James had to be helped off the field after Oregon's narrow 15-13 victory at California on Nov. 13, appearing afterward on crutches and wearing a boot.

Following an open date, James was not listed on Oregon's injury report on Sunday but he did not practice. He returned to practice at full speed on Monday before sitting out on Tuesday.

Kelly, who doesn't comment about injuries, said James was getting all the necessary reps in practice. Kelly's concern is that the team remains fresh for the final two regular season games.

After hosting Arizona, the Ducks drive up the road to Corvallis for the annual Civil War game against the Oregon State Beavers.