Trailing 15-14 at halftime of Thursday’s Pac-12 matchup with Cal, No. 9 Oregon stuck the ball in the gut of its top playmaker and let LaMichael James do what he does best.
The 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist rushed for 239 yards — his third straight game with at least 200 — and a score and Darron Thomas tossed three second-half touchdown passes as the Ducks scored 29 unanswered points to claim a 43-15 victory.
But in the win, Oregon may have sustained a crushing loss. Early in the fourth quarter, on a play near the Cal end zone, James — the nation’s leading rusher — had his right arm violently yanked backward by a defender. When he tried to brace his landing on the turf, his elbow bent in a direction it should never go. (Here’s the video.) James was carted off the field in an air cast.
X-rays were negative for a broken bone, but James did say he had to pop his elbow — which was dislocated at the very least — back into place. After the game he was quick to look on the bright side, saying:
“It’s not a season-ending injury and I’ll be fine. I’m tough. I’m a warrior and I’m never going to quit on my team.”
That all sounds good, but if you’re an Oregon fan, the thought of being without your best player — even just for a few weeks — is not a promising prospect. Through five games, James has rushed for 852 yards and eight touchdowns, accounting for 55 percent of the team’s rushing offense and 27 percent of the team’s total touchdowns.