Oregon's Darron Thomas Outshines Stanford's Andrew Luck for First Time
Still, Thomas said this week that Luck is "my boy."
And now maybe his former nemesis.
The Oregon quarterback dug his team out of a big hole with guts, guile, speed and skill. Fourth-ranked Oregon outscored No. 9 Stanford 49-10 after going down 21-3 in the first quarter and cruised to a 52-31 victory at Autzen Stadium Saturday night.
Thomas helped to likely put the Ducks (5-0) in the top three in the national rankings and certainly on the inside track for the Rose Bowl. Perhaps more than that, a shot at the national championship.
Stanford absorbs its first loss, dropping to 4-1. It doesn't get easier for the Cardinal, who will go home, regroup and get ready to face USC, a team with its own recovery to ponder after losing 32-31 at home to Washington about 10 minutes before the Cardinal and the Ducks wrapped.
Luck might be the NFL golden child, the package that sends pro scouts hearts aflutter. And one unsuccessful night against one of the best teams in the country doesn't change that.
But Thomas, the sophomore who only earned the starting job five weeks ago, was the one with the statement victory. He was the one surrounded by a couple hundred fans and a few dozen cameras at midfield in the moments after the game, smiling broadly as he looked into the stands. Surveying his kingdom, maybe?
"I was happy," said Thomas, who finished 20 of 29 for 238 passing yards and three touchdowns. He added a career-high 117 rushing yards on 15 carries and another touchdown for a grand total of 355 yards and four touchdowns. "We knew we were going to fight until the end, so I'm glad everybody stayed."
Let's face it. Thomas has a pretty talented team around him. The Ducks can literally make him look good.
Running back LaMichael James finished the game with a career-best 257 yards on 31 carries with three touchdowns. He is a game-changer. Opposing defenses guarding against James and his big-play potential open up a multitude of pathways for Thomas.
Oregon's defense, meanwhile, just gets better as the game goes. The Ducks haven't allowed any points in the fourth quarter yet this year and only seven points in the second half.
But Thomas has done more than stumble into a good situation.
And he showed his coach something Saturday night.
"I thought Darron was tremendous," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "He doesn't get rattled and we didn't know that because he hadn't been in that (kind of) game. He kind of showed a glimpse two years ago when he came off the bench against Boise in the fourth quarter. But honestly, when he came off the bench against Boise, he didn't know what he didn't know. He was just back there throwing the ball and we made some plays around him.
"But I saw it in the Tennessee game, and I saw it in the Arizona State game, and I saw it again here ... He can run the ball. We can put those rumors to bed, that the kid can't run the football. He's everything we want in a quarterback."
Luck's night looked good on the stat sheet. He finished with 380 total yards (341 passing and 39 rushing). He threw two touchdown passes and rushed for another. He turned three Oregon turnovers into 17 points.
But he also pressed when the Ducks blew past.
He threw two interceptions -- bringing his total to four in the last two games. He threw into coverage and missed receivers outright. He fumbled an exchange with the center that cost the Cardinal a touchdown late. He took more hits than he had all season combined to this point. He looked mortal.
"They forced us into mistakes," Luck said after the game.
Thomas has no hard feelings toward Luck. He still talks to Luck's father, Oliver, on occasion.
But he wasn't going to deny that he had a little extra something flowing through his veins Saturday night.
"It was a big game for me," Thomas said. "I came in with a chip on my shoulder knowing I was playing Andrew Luck again. I've been defeated by him twice. I told the team that, and they knew that and they wanted me to come out on top."