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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

James as advertised

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Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat

LaMichael James came into Saturday’s contest against Arizona with extra motivation.

After rushing for only 121 yards on 30 carries through the first two games of the season, sports writers said James lost a step due to his added weight in the offseason.

He wasn’t the same back as last year, they wrote. They may have been right — on Saturday, James proved he’s better.

The junior back shredded Arizona’s defense on Saturday for a school-record 288 yards and two touchdowns on only 23 carries, good for 12.5 yards per carry average.

“Keep writing bad things about him,” said Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. “Maybe he’ll run for 400 next week.”

With his 288 yards, James edged former Oregon running back Onterrio Smith, who ran for 285 yards against Washington State in 2001 to capture the Ducks’ single-game rushing record.

James’ two scores also catapulted him past Derek Loville (1986-89) for the most rushing touchdowns in school history with 42.

“I thought LaMichael James was spectacular,” said head coach Mike Stoops after the game. “He’s a pretty special guy.”

James set the tone for the Ducks, who rushed for a season-high 412 yards as a team, on the first drive of the game. After quarterback Darron Thomas accounted for Oregon’s first six plays from the line of scrimmage, James took back-to-back carries for 21 combined yards and into the Wildcats end zone. James and the Ducks wouldn’t look back from there.

“I think the team really feeds off me,” he said. “I have to come in here and I have to run physical and I feel like when I do things like that, I get our team really amped up.”

James ended the game with seven runs of 15 yards or more, including two 47-yard scampers and a 31-yard burst. His ability to bounce off of tackles combined with his breakaway speed is what has made James the nation’s leading rusher with 613 yards — two more than South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore.

“To run for 288 in a league game on the road is special,” Kelly said. “I just can’t say enough. I think he’s a special player and we’ll ride him as long as we can here.

“I was amazed. It was an amazing thing to see him run like that today. He’s just an impressive young man. He’s such a warrior.”

James’ combination of power and speed proved too much for a struggling Arizona defense. Although bad tackling contributed to the success, James was relentless, fighting for extra yards and refusing to go down even when the game was out of reach. He rushed for more yards on Saturday than he had in his two career games against Arizona — 243 yards and two scores on 47 carries.

“He’s good at what he does. He’s shifty,” said Arizona linebacker Paul Vassallo. “I don’t know how he slips out of some of the tackles. He’s got great balance, I know that. I think that’s just what he does. He’s made a living off of it so far.”

Since facing criticism after week two, James has rushed for 492 yards and five touchdowns during his last two games.

“He’s a special player and we’re just really happy he’s with us,” Kelly said.

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