Oh, what a year it was
The trickery, the fast-paced offense and the incredible athletes on both sides of the field are all reasons to tune in whether you’re an avid fan or simply a casual one.
If you like electrifying football, you’ll love the Oregon Ducks.
As we get ready to make a new set of memories in 2012, here is a look back at the best plays from the 2011 college football season:
5) LaMichael James Punt Return vs. Nevada
In a 69-20 blowout against the Nevada Wolf Pack, LaMichael James showed us just how versatile he is when he took on the opposing special teams and returned a punt 58 yards for a touchdown.
Did this play have a major impact on the final result? Not a chance—this game was decided from the start.
It did, however, give us a chance to witness something we hadn’t seen much of the past couple of seasons, which was LaMichael James making plays in the special teams.
James ran head first into the defense, broke a few tackles and separated himself from the pack for his first and only touchdown off a punt in an Oregon uniform.
4) De’Anthony Thomas Shakes Safety vs. Washington State
If De’Anthony Thomas is good at one thing, it’s making defenders look silly.
When the Ducks hosted the Washington State Cougars, De’Anthony Thomas made one of the best plays of the year when caught a screen pass and exploded up the field for a 45-yard score in the opening drive of the third quarter.
After breaking the first tackle, Thomas ran 40 yards untouched despite two defenders on his tail and one very confused safety a few yards ahead.
3) De’Anthony Thomas Kickoff Return vs. USC
The Oregon Ducks had played a dreadful game for most of the first three quarters against the USC Trojans, but a special teams play by Thomas sparked an incredible comeback.
Thomas, who originally committed to USC, wanted to make an impact in this game, and his 96-yard return for a touchdown helped him do just that.
Like many of the plays Oregon runs, this one was founded on deception. The fake reverse pushed the defense to the other side of the field, and once they finally caught up to The Black Mamba, he changed direction and ran to the end zone for his second return for a touchdown of the year.
The Ducks were unable to pull off the victory, but a thrilling fourth quarter made for one of the most exciting games of the entire season.
2) De’Anthony Thomas 91-yard run vs. Wisconsin
It’s no coincidence that Thomas’ name keeps popping up on the list of the year’s top plays.
The 5’9” sophomore is one of the most explosive players in the nation, and his incredible speed was never more evident than ever on his 91-yard touchdown in the 2011 Rose Bowl.
Thomas took the handoff, made one fantastic cut and never looked back.
The play set the record for the longest run from scrimmage ever in a Rose Bowl, and was one of the top plays of the entire 2011 season.
1) Fumble recovery vs. Wisconsin
The sheer outburst of emotion from Chip Kelly explains this play without any words necessary.
With just over four minutes to play in the 2011 Rose Bowl, the Ducks made the biggest defensive play of the season when Terrence Mitchell dislodged the ball from a Wisconsin Badger. The ball sat on the field untouched for what seemed like days until Michael Clay made the dive of his life to recover the fumble.
Despite leading the game 45-38, the Ducks were allowing a late-game drive deep into their own territory, and this play is the one that put a halt to a comeback.
A game is never decided by one play, and the Rose Bowl is no exception; but if you want to pinpoint any one possession as the most crucial in this contest, this was the one that ultimately helped the Ducks win their first Rose Bowl in 95 years.