Oregon running back LaMichael James was having a career night against Cal with 30 rushes for 239 yards and a touchdown.
But a painful-looking elbow injury early in the fourth quarter as a result of an awkward tackle could have nearly ended James’ career in Eugene. James laid on the ground for several minutes, wincing in obvious pain before he was carted off the field with a cast on his right arm.
Watching the injury on replay was tough, and perhaps a little nauseating for those with a weak stomach.
We won’t know the diagnosis right away, or how long James will be out – James says the elbow isn’t broken and ‘not a season-ending injury and I’ll be fine’ – but the injury could be a huge blow to this Oregon team which depended on him for leadership and experience. From an individual perspective, James was having a Heisman-like performance tonight during a game that occupied the college football spotlight. After a slow start in Oregon’s season-opening loss against LSU, James was launching himself back into serious Heisman contention.
Prior to tonight’s game, James led the country in rushing yards per game with 153. He had 166 in the first half of an eventual 43-15 win by the No. 9 Ducks.
Going forward, and depending on James’ timeline for return (if there is a return), the Ducks need to be able to rebound quickly with a game against Arizona State next week. Beyond that, Oregon has enough offensive firepower to get through conference play until the big Nov. 12 showdown at Stanford.
The question will be whether running backs Kenjon Barner and freshman DeAnthony Thomas can take on bigger roles and keep the Ducks’ ground game from missing a beat. Barner did a nice job filling in for James in Oregon’s season opener last year, and Thomas has shown his versatility this season.
Going on the road to play Stanford was already projected to be the toughest game of the year for Oregon. If they have to play without James, it’ll be even more difficult, but Chip Kelly‘s team has the talent to get it done.
Colorado’s unlikely road to the Pac-12 title may have gotten a little bit harder on Friday night.
Buffaloes starting quarterback Sefo Liufau suffered a lower leg injury midway through the first quarter and missed most of the half as the unlikely South Division champions trailed Washington 14-7 in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Liufau eventually headed to the locker room before the whistle at the end of the second quarter but it’s possible he will return to the game.
Backup Steven Montez did lead the team down on a scoring drive shortly afterward (capped off by a Phillip Lindsay touchdown run) but was under pressure on nearly every snap by the Huskies’ pass rush.
His counterpart similarly didn’t have much luck against Colorado’s stingy defense either. Washington signal-caller Jake Browning finished the half just 4-of-12 for 38 yards but the Huskies didn’t bat much of an eye by doing what they wanted on ground — rushing for 148 yards behind the tough running of both Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman.
It should make for a fantastic second half from the Bay Area as both teams harbor hopes of making it into the College Football Playoff after capturing a Pac-12 title.
Still perfect. Still rowing.
Western Michigan completed a dream undefeated regular season on Friday night and captured the school’s first MAC Championship since 1988 with a 29-23 win over Ohio.
The Broncos led from wire-to-wire on Friday night but struggled to complete drives with touchdowns against a stingy Bobcats defense on a night where they needed all the style points they could get. WMU is the College Football Playoff’s highest ranked Group of Five team but are in a neck-and-neck battle with Navy for a bid to the Cotton Bowl this season.
Even if the final margin wasn’t what head coach P.J. Fleck wanted, he nevertheless was excited at the way his team played defensively in holding Ohio to just 213 yards on the night. The normally prolific offense had their moments too, with quarterback Zach Terrell finishing with 301 yards, two scores and two interceptions.
One of those touchdown passes from Terrell went to wide receiver Corey Davis, who continued to press his case that he’s a first-round pick in the spring. The pass-catcher scored the team’s first touchdown back in the second quarter on a 70-yard scamper and the all-time leader in FBS receiving yardage finished his MAC career with 155 yards on nine catches.
The Bobcats tried to use their normal formula of running the ball and playing defense to control the clock but failed to do much of the former. The team finished with just 37 yards on the ground (and 251 overall) but did manage to make things interesting with three second half touchdowns and a late drive that could have taken the lead but instead ended with a game-sealing interception.
That wasn’t exactly the kind of high-flying #MACtion game the conference record 45,615 fans at Ford Field were looking for, with many of them sporting WMU colors as the school looks ahead to Sunday and whether or not they’re headed to a New Year’s Six Bowl at the end of the month.
On Friday night however, they just had to soak in the remarkable run the Broncos are on and row that boat all the way to a championship.
One of the bigger storylines of this offseason is the annual coaching carousel and where former LSU head coach Les Miles will land.
The longtime coach has stated he wants to coach again in 2017, and has plenty of credentials — over 100 wins, SEC and national championships — but where he will find a fit is one of the bigger mysteries.
A lot of folks have noted that he could be in the running for the Purdue job (Miles is a Big Ten man at heart) but it appears that will not be the case. According to Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel, a source told him to cross Miles’s name off of Purdue’s list.
There are not a ton of big openings at the moment so with the Boilermakers reportedly off the table, it might be a long offseason for the former LSU coach. Western Kentucky’s Jeff Brohm and Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck have been the two biggest names mentioned with the Purdue search but it appears unlikely any movement happens before this weekend.
Thamel also mentions Miles could be in the mix at Houston, which would be fascinating given his years at Oklahoma State and over a decade spent a few hours East in Baton Rouge. Either way, it looks like the carousel has a few more spins left in it this month.
Colorado plays Washington on Friday in the Pac-12 Championship Game but that hasn’t stopped the coaching carousel from taking a break.
Rumors have circulated that Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre is a candidate at Baylor and that he would be interviewing with the Bears either today or tomorrow. Colorado’s sports information director wanted no part of those reports continuing to flourish however, and took to Twitter to vehemently deny them.
That is… quite the denial.
At the same time, you can understand why Baylor wants to speak with MacIntyre give his credentials for turning around the program, his moral values and the fact that he was just named the Walter Camp Coach of the Year.
If it’s not meant to be however, the school will no doubt be turning to other candidates this weekend, possibly including fellow Pac-12 coach Sonny Dykes at Cal.