The anticipation has been building all offseason for the Oregon fans. Months of stone-throwing from enemies in the conference and across the nation have Duck fans ready to put it behind them with a new QB who has shown a ton of promise throughout his short career.
Thomas and the Duck offense don't disappoint. Touchdowns from Kenjon Barner and Thomas ease fans early concerns and the defense shows off their depth in the second half.
The Lobos clearly have their own issues and it's tough to pick anything that goes poorly for the Ducks in this one.
They stay healthy and dominate the Lobos thoroughly: 48-0
An up and down week of practice leaves the Ducks unsettled as they enter Knoxville to face Tennessee. Darron Thomas was singled out by Coach Chip Kelly after a particularly sloppy Tuesday session and the media instantly picks up the QB Controversy angle.
An early interception from Thomas does little to ease fans minds.
Does Justin Wilcox have the magic potion to contain the spread-option?
The Tennessee running backs have a field day in the first half as Tauren Poole and David Oku both go for big scoring runs. The Ducks are clearly reeling when Thomas finally steadies the ship with a 45 yard TD pass to Jeff Maehl, who is the only guy he really looks comfortable getting the ball to.
But Oregon still trails at half by thirteen.
After the defense holds to start the second half things finally get rolling. LaMichael James begins to find seams in the Tennessee defense and breaks off runs of 25 and then 40 yards in the same drive. Thomas connects with David Paulson on a short catch that turns into a long run and goes for six.
Two other drives come up short, but end in long Rob Beard FGs. The defense settles down as well and begins to play on instinct and show their speed. The collisions can be felt even in the press box as the Ducks force two fumbles from unproven QB Matt Simms.
The momentum swings for good when Kenjon Barner goes back to take a punt early in the fourth quarter. After making the first man miss he breaks an arm tackle and spins out of another, going 76 yards for the score. Thomas and the offense do enough the rest of the way.
It rains excuses for the SEC after this one: 41-23
Portland State's trip to Autzen doesn't end well for anyone. The Ducks are easily able to outmaneuver and flat outrun the Vikings, but depth begins to become a concern.
An awkward landing forces Lavasier Tuinei out of the game in the first half and then Casey Matthews gets dinged later on.
After the Ducks go up three scores Chip Kelly pulls all the starters and plays mostly his third team offense and defense.
Nate Costa takes almost all the snaps and is impressive, finishing the game with four total TDs and over 350 yards of total offense.
Two injuries and a strength of schedule nightmare for the Ducks: 55-3
The late kickoff time means the desert heat won't get to the Ducks, but Vontaze Burfict and the Sun Devils defense do.
Burfict is everywhere.
Flashing his speed side to side as he tracks LaMichael James relentlessly and sacks Thomas twice in the first quarter.
Steven Threet and the ASU offense are mostly unsuccessful, even without starting MLB Casey Matthews for the Ducks, but do score a TD on an Aaron Pflugrad TD. Three long FGs from Thomas Weber have the Devils up ten and feeling confident going to the half.
But Thomas and the Ducks again collect themselves on the road. With the possibility of a meltdown looming before them, Thomas and the offense answer the bell, scoring two TDs on consecutive drives out of the half to give the Ducks the lead for the first time in the game.
While they probably get deeper into the offense than Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich would have liked, they need every angle to get around a fast and determined ASU defense. Long runs from LaMichael James and then Kenjon Barner leave the Ducks up 17 when Threet is intercepted by Josh Kaddu.
Two more Weber FGs aren't enough.
Ducks escape: 33-22
Stanford offers the Ducks their first chance at a conference foe inside Autzen Stadium and probably their toughest test to date.
Chip Kelly laughs at the notion that a soft schedule is the reason the Ducks have had success so far "I laugh at the notion a soft schedule is the reason we've had success so far".
Stanford comes into the game ranked, undefeated, and already having pasted a conference foe in UCLA and a traditional rival in Notre Dame, both on the road. But the early season cross country tour has the Cardinal looking like they have tired legs in this one.
The depth of Oregon's defensive backfield shows as they are able to break up balls that Luck landed for completions against them last season. Cliff Harris has a monster game and Matthews returns and leads the team in tackles.
Lavasier Tuinei is not so lucky when he finds out midweek he's out for the season.
Another hit to a WR corps that prior to the season lost Diante Jackson and Tyreece Gaines to academic issues and Garret Embry and Jamere Holland to other types of, er...issues.
A desperately thin WR unit is now pushed to it's limit as freshman Josh Huff and Keanon Lowe are asked to step in and play a role early in their careers and early in the season.
Somehow, Thomas seems to find a rhythm through it all and throws for over 250 yards and two scores. He rushes for another and the defense really does an outstanding job of moving Luck's feet and making him uncomfortable in the pocket.
Aliotti's group gets it done: 31-17
Washington State enters their match up with the Ducks in Martin Stadium fresh off their most impressive win during the Paul Wulff Era.
After Kevin Kooyman and Devin Long knocked Kevin Prince out of the game, the Cougars took over, finishing off the Bruins 24-18. Now they are back home and looking to give the Pullman faithful something to go nuts about.
Chip Kelly and his Ducks are unaware of the distractions.
Kooyman and Long are stymied by the experienced Oregon tackles and Darron Thomas leads the offense to their biggest day yet.
Kelly pulls the reigns off Thomas and the Ducks roll: 56-10
UCLA is the surprise disappointment of the conference and they enter Autzen stadium with more uncertainties at this point than they had when the season opened. Both Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut have faced injury issues and downright awful play.
The Duck defense makes sure their tough luck continues.
UCLA doesn't do much in the running game, with neither Jonathan Franklin nor Derrick Coleman going over 50 yards.
The special teams is again huge as Kenjon Barner has 245 yards in returns by the time the game is over and the Ducks kickoff and punt coverage teams control field position all game.
Darron Thomas plays well, but questions about his playmaking ability in the run game persist. Oregon has yet to face a top-tier defense and many believe the looming showdown with USC will expose the still-young Thomas' weaknesses.
LaMichael James and the Duck offense is too much today, though.
Ducks move to 7-0 by thrashing Bruins: 48-7
A national stage and the revenge factor fully in play, Oregon enters the Los Angeles Coliseum unbeaten and unafraid of USC. They know the Trojans have last year's undressing on Halloween fresh in their minds.
But they also feel like they are still the better team and are out to prove last year was no fluke.
USC doesn't get the memo.
Matt Barkley looks superb in going 26-31 for 357 yards and 4 TDs. The Duck secondary is exposed for it's lack of size by the Trojans receivers and Ronald Johnson in particular.
After catching a TD over Talmadge Jackson, he catches a hitch route in front of Cliff Harris, breaks a tackle and goes 65 yards for another score.
Thomas and the offense are unable to answer all game. They look surprised at the speed of the USC defense and can't adjust.
Turnovers and missed assignments win the day and it's never really as close as the final score indicates.
USC takes the Ducks out of the national title picture and puts themselves in line to be "True" Pac-10 Champs: 38-28
There is no rest for the weary and the Ducks return to Eugene with only six short days to prepare for the conferences most explosive player.
Jake Locker has become the front-runner for the Heisman and most every other national award. He has his Huskies in place to not only get to a bowl game, but fight for the conference title.
Early in the game, Locker sets the tone.
On a third down play in the first quarter, Locker drops back and is met by Kenny Rowe.
Rowe chops and the ball with his left arm, but Locker somehow slips out of his grasp and spins away from another Duck defender. With the secondary lost, Locker sees his chance and breaks into the open field. After breaking a Cliff Harris tackle near the sideline he bulls over Eddie Pleasant into the endzone, throwing up a W with his hands to the UW corner of the stands.
Oregon fans everywhere get a churning feeling in their stomachs.
Thomas and the offense play well, moving the ball and keeping the Ducks in the game, but it's just too much Locker.
He connects to nine different guys on the game and hits scoring strikes to James Johnson, Johri Fogerson, Chris Polk, and Devin Aguilar.
Locker puts the cherry on top of the UW sundae with another rushing TD, giving him six total for the game.
Ducks are unable to bounce back and go down to the hated Huskies: 49-31
Two consecutive defeats and three games left to determine the course of the season. The Ducks again find themselves on the road in the unfriendly confines of Memorial Stadium in Berkeley.
But Cal has struggled and the Ducks use a galvanized locker room to play up the "us against the world" factor going into the game. Chip Kelly denies all press access to himself and his players and completely closes ranks.
The offense has played well, but injuries to Lavasier Tuinei and Remene Alston have thinned out the skill positions around Thomas. Kelly knows the key is keeping his young QB upright and Steve Greatwood's group responds in this one.
Unlike the past two games against USC and UW, where Thomas was sacked a combined nine times, Cal is completely unable to move Thomas around in the pocket. He again looks like a dangerous passer and throws three TDs on the game.
LaMichael James is mostly shut down, but Kenjon Barner picks up the slack.
He seems to line up everywhere for the Ducks and Cal is unable to keep track of him on a fly sweep he takes for six late in the third quarter.
Somehow, the Ducks rebound and keep themselves in place to stay in the top third of the conference.
Oregon finally breaks out in Berkeley: 34-17
The Pac-10 race is tight at the top, but the Ducks don't figure to factor in with two losses in conference already. USC controls things with no losses, and then there's Oregon State and Washington with one each.
Arizona comes to Eugene with the taste of last years bitter defeat still fresh.
The Wildcats have been unable to match last year's cohesion and mesh with four new co-coordinators. But today things start to come together.
Thomas plays his worst game of the season and is intercepted three times and also loses a fumble.
LaMichael James keeps the Ducks close in the first half, but the Cats defense zeros in on him after halftime and he is mostly ineffective.
The Duck defense has trouble all day with the accuracy of Nick Foles and Nic Girgsby takes advantage when the Ducks play back going over 100 yards on the ground.
After the rebound in Berkeley, the Ducks lose at home for the second time this season: 42-28
Oregon State enters the game for the third time in a row looking a win away from a Rose Bowl bid. After an early season loss to Washington, Ryan Katz and company have got on track and haven't looked back.
They control the Pac-10 race after beating USC and Stanford in consecutive weeks.
Oregon sits in a four-way tie for third, which means they are also tied for sixth, Beaver fans remind everyone all week leading up to the game.
Win the Civil War, and the Ducks could stay in the third place slot and again push the Beavers out of Pasadena.
Lose, and Oregon State goes to the Rose Bowl.
The Ducks look collected during the first half, playing well on offense and mostly keeping the Rodgers brothers in check.
They even look poised to take a lead until Darron Thomas throws a late out pattern and a Beaver defender takes it 73 yards to the house.
The Ducks come back and get a FG but it's too little too late. The momentum has swung and with OSU's fans feeling it, Jacquizz takes a run up the middle and breaks a tackle, racing 65 yards for the game sealing score.
Oregon State wins the conference crown: 39-24
Jake Locker and both Rodgers are invited to NYC for the Heisman ceremony and Locker wins in a landslide. Quizz finishes second and announces he plans to come back for his senior season to have another shot at the trophy. The Ducks get pounded by a weaker but more motivated team in their bowl game and OSU takes apart tOSU in the Rose Bowl.