De'Anthony Thomas: The Top 10 Plays of the Oregon Ducks Running Back's Career
De'Anthony Thomas has made a name for himself over the past two seasons as one of the nation's most exciting players at running back, slot receiver and kick returner for the Oregon Ducks.
Perhaps no other FBS player has a highlight tape quite as entertaining as does Thomas, who has totaled 1,296 rushing yards, 1,050 receiving yards and 36 total touchdowns over his two-year career as a Duck.
DAT's outstanding versatility and incredible combination of speed and quickness have allowed him to change games for his team in the blink of an eye.
The former 5-star recruit has proven that he can take it to the house anytime he has the ball in his hands, and has made a habit of embarrassing opponents in the process.
Thomas has made so many truly incredible plays that it is extremely hard to narrow it down to the best 10. Therefore, plenty of excellent plays will have to miss the cut.
The following list is a tribute to the Black Mamba and the 10 greatest plays of his young career thus far.
16-Yard TD Run Against Washington (2012)
Thomas' 16-yard score against the Huskies put the Ducks on the board midway through the first quarter. It was a particularly smooth run, as he cut right up the middle of the defense and ran straight through a Washington safety to put Oregon up by six.
16-Yard TD Reception Against USC (2012)
In one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the 2012 season, the Ducks traveled to Southern California to take on the USC Trojans. Oregon looked like a machine on its first drive, which took just over a minute and culminated in a beautiful leaping touchdown grab by a wide-open DAT.
50-Yard TD Run Against Fresno State (2012)
Thomas resembled a pinball on a fourth-down play at midfield in Week 2 of the 2012 season against Fresno State. He bounced off of defenders with ease and cruised down the far sideline behind his blockers to put the Ducks up by 24 points.
10. DAT Gashes the Red Wolves' Defense
Thomas gave Oregon fans something to celebrate during the first game of the 2012 season, posting three spectacular touchdowns.
The Ducks absolutely dominated the first half of the game, leading 36-3 only five minutes into the second quarter.
It was at that point that DAT completely took over.
After receiving a handoff from Marcus Mariota, Thomas attempted to run right. However, he realized that there was nothing there and quickly reversed field in search of more green.
As he reached the line of scrimmage, the Black Mamba delivered one of his famously devastating lateral moves to accelerate in between two defenders.
Thanks to a great downfield block from wideout Keanon Lowe, Thomas broke the plane with one final violent spin away from an Arkansas State safety to put the Ducks up 42-3.
9. De'Anthony Makes an Early Push for the Heisman
Three games into the 2012 season, De'Anthony Thomas was high up on many lists of Heisman Trophy candidates.
His case for the prestigious award was helped out by a great performance against Tennessee Tech in Week 3 when he racked up 135 total yards and a pair of scores. The highlight of his day was perhaps a 49-yard touchdown reception.
All right, so Thomas does not technically get credit for the score. He was stripped on the 1-yard line, and the ball was recovered by tackle Jake Fisher, who truly deserves praise for his hustle.
Nonetheless, DAT's run after the catch was truly spectacular, sprinting down the near sideline until he had to cut back underneath two Tennessee Tech defenders to end up near the middle of the field.
It's also easy to forgive Thomas for his fumble. He must have been exhausted after he had ripped off a 59-yard touchdown run on the previous drive.
8. Thomas Extends the Ducks' Lead over Stanford
In what was perhaps their most important game of the 2011 season, the Oregon Ducks headed to Palo Alto to take on the No. 4-ranked Stanford Cardinal.
After taking an early 15-9 lead, the Ducks were facing a fourth down near midfield with three minutes remaining in the first half.
Chip Kelly, being Chip Kelly, decided to go for it, and it paid off in a big way with a beautifully designed screen pass to, guess who?
In a play that originally appeared as though it may result in a sack, DAT caught the ball around the Cardinal's 40-yard line and toasted linebacker Chase Thomas down the sideline.
With the help of a great downfield block from tight end David Paulson, Thomas cruised into the end zone to extend Oregon's lead before halftime. The Ducks went on to win 53-30.
7. The Black Mamba Runs Angry Against the Beavers
In a particularly unfriendly Civil War game in 2012, the Beavers appeared to be after Thomas from the opening whistle.
The foul play peaked in the third quarter when cornerback Jordan Poyer violently lifted Thomas off of the ground by the facemask as the play was being blown dead.
The dirty play clearly set Thomas off. He proceeded to run like a man possessed for the rest of the game, posting 122 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the day.
Perhaps the top highlight was his 29-yard touchdown scamper up the far sideline that he finished by slamming on the brakes just across the goal line and tossing the ball to the referee in a particularly satisfying manner for Duck fans.
Oregon went on to win the game 48-24 and extend their Civil War winning streak.
6. The True Freshman Introduces Himself to the Nation
I don't know if I've ever seen a single move more effective than when Thomas planted his right foot into the Autzen Stadium turf around his own 40-yard line against Nevada in 2011.
Only a week after losing two key fumbles during a loss to LSU in his Oregon debut, the Black Mamba earned national attention when he fooled a Nevada safety so completely that he had to run in a full circle to start chasing him again.
The result of the play was a 69-yard touchdown to put the Ducks up 54-13 as they bounced back from their recent loss to the Tigers.
Once again, some credit needs to be given to DAT's blockers out in front, particularly the receivers.
However, that devastating move, combined with his sheer speed, marked the beginnings of the national attention surrounding the freshman phenom.
5. Thomas Makes the Cougars' Heads Spin
Have you ever become so confused that you feel dizzy or disoriented?
Well, that is exactly what appeared to happen to Washington State safety Tyree Toomer when Thomas took a swing pass from Darron Thomas 45 yards to the house in 2011.
After shedding one arm tackle, DAT proceeded to make the Cougar secondary look silly with a series of lateral moves that apparently made him practically invisible to Toomer.
The safety, who was running in the same direction about five yards ahead of Thomas, looked to have guessed wrong on the direction of the ball-carrier's chosen path three or four different times.
Meanwhile, the Black Mamba was cruising into the end zone with his finger pointed to the stands to put the Ducks up by 12 points.
4. The Black Mamba Ignites a Comeback Against USC
Perhaps no individual person did more damage to the USC football program in 2011 than De'Anthony Thomas.
The Los Angeles native had been a long-time Southern Cal commit, but he ended up spurning the Trojans on national signing day to play in Chip Kelly's offense instead.
Only about seven months later, Thomas posted two touchdowns against Lane Kiffin's USC squad, including this 96-yard kick return that ignited a comeback from a 38-14 deficit near the end of the third quarter.
Upon fielding the kick and faking a reverse to his teammate, the Black Mamba demonstrated some outstanding vision and patience, waiting for his blockers to get out in front of him, and darted into the end zone to put the Ducks within three scores.
The Ducks did lose the game, but it was only due to a missed last-second field goal after DAT's touchdown lit a fire under his squad throughout the fourth quarter.
3. The Ducks Kick the Fiesta Bowl off Right
Lou Holtz frustrated many Oregon fans when he chose the Kansas State Wildcats to beat the Ducks during the 2013 Fiesta Bowl pregame show due to a supposed lack of excitement to be there rather than the national championship game.
However, it took De'Anthony Thomas only 12 seconds to provide that excitement and put the Ducks up by six points.
After fielding the game's opening kickoff, DAT wove neatly up the near sideline behind some great blocks for a 94-yard touchdown return.
Also a member of the school's track team, Thomas finished the run with a motion as if he had just broken the tape in a 100-meter dash. SportsCenter even did a feature on the explosive sophomore that night, measuring that he had reached over 26 miles per hour at peak velocity.
The Black Mamba's return made a statement under the national spotlight, and the Ducks went on to cruise to a 35-17 victory.
2. The Longest Run in Rose Bowl History
You know you've done something right when you set a record in a game as prestigious as the Rose Bowl.
Thomas was perhaps the most valuable piece of the Ducks' shootout Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin in 2012, posting 155 rushing yards and two touchdowns on only two carries.
The more spectacular of his pair of scores was this 91-yard dash through the middle of the Badger defense to tie the game at 14 as the first quarter expired.
Anyone in the college football world who had not heard of Thomas before the Rose Bowl knew his name after this play, a truly amazing display of straight-line speed.
The Black Mamba's outstanding contributions led Oregon to its first Rose Bowl victory in 95 years.
1. DAT Makes It Look Easy Against Colorado
Thomas took everything a special teams coach teaches his return men and threw it out the window against Colorado last season.
Not only did DAT let the ball bounce, but he decided to go after it while being pursued by two Buffaloes gunners and sprinting in the exact wrong direction.
However, that didn't stop the electrifying sophomore from turning a seemingly disastrous special teams blunder into one of the most spectacular plays of the 2012 season.
After scooping up the pigskin, Thomas immediately dealt out a powerful stiff arm to throw off a would-be tackler. He next sprinted laterally to the sideline that was quickly filling up with Colorado jerseys, where he made yet another counter-intuitive move—he stopped.
In a demonstration of his outstanding patience and vision, DAT simply came to a halt and gave a simple hop-step while he waited for his blocks to develop.
Then, with the help of his teammates along the sideline, the Black Mamba was out of that trap and into the end zone nine seconds and 80 yards later to put the Ducks up by 41 points early into the second quarter.