Last season, I put together a list of the Top 15 touchdowns from the Oregon season. I used YouTube Oregon highlight co-czar (with our buddy keeerrrttt) and proprietor of the always-fabulous Wines family blog, madmike1951, for the bulk of the highlight material, and he was kind enough to package it together in one handy link. This year, a few things happened. First, I couldn't wait until after the bowl game. I reserve the right to add bowl highlights in after the fact, but for now this is a regular season highlight reel. Second, I couldn't bring myself to whittle down to 15 plays. Fact of the matter is, while the Ducks scored fewer touchdowns in 2011, the quality of those scores just might be better than last year. So this year, you get a top 21 list that actually features 22 touchdowns.
But first, I must right a wrong from last year's list. At #14, I had a Kenjon Barner touchdown against New Mexico. I wanted to honor KJB scoring five touchdowns in that game, and I got kind of obsessed with that cut. I watched it at home; I watched it in the bedroom; it got unhealthy after a while. The cut filed a restraining order against me; I bought stronger binoculars. But I neglected to include the touchdown that makes me giggle more than any other from last year: DT to Josh Huff against ASU. I mean, he's 20 yards away from any Sun Devil when he catches the ball. I love this offense. Anyway, on to the countdown!
#21 - Darron Thomas to Lavasier Tuinei vs. Stanford: "Oregon Strikes First" After DeWitt Stuckey's interception on Stanford's second drive, it was imperative that Oregon grab the momentum. Darron Thomas did just that with a perfect throw, on the move, to the corner of the endzone. And Lavasier Tuinei has unbelievable body control for someone 6'7". We'll see more of this skill later.
#19 - Kenjon Barner 68 yard run vs. Cal: "He Doesn't Need a Nickname" LaMichael James is a wonder when it comes to changing direction, spinning, and avoiding tackles. Barner's at his best when he cuts once, then blows by defenders.
#18 - LaMichael James 58 yard run vs. Stanford: "Daylight, Adios" Two cuts, great blocking, and a terrible angle by Stanford's Michael Thomas, and LMJ was gone. For all the speed that gets talked about with Oregon's running backs, what gets overlooked is how patient LMJ and KJB are in letting holes open up.
#17 - LaMichael James 53 yard run vs. Cal: "Turning the Corner" Yeah, he's really fast.
#15 - Bryan Bennett to Lavasier Tuinei vs. Washington State: "The Fred Astaire" A nice throw by BB, but an even better catch by Tuinei, keeping his feet inbounds and dancing into the endzone.
#14 - Darron Thomas to Kenjon Barner vs. Oregon State: "Just in Time" For a mobile quarterback, Darron Thomas has a fantastic pocket presence, and has no problem standing in the pocket and absorbing a hit. This is one of his best of the year, as he ignores the pressure and delivers a nice touch throw over top of the coverage for a TD.
#13 - Kenjon Barner 84 yard run vs. Colorado: "This is Just Straight Speed" It doesn't matter how long the run is, KJB was gonna score. Great blocking up front, and the Colorado secondary just underestimated how fast Barner actually was.
#12 - LaMichael James 90 yard run vs. Missouri State: "Another Fast One" You know you're doing offense right when a 90 yard touchdown isn't even in the top 10. This loses points for being against Missouri State, and for being boring. Follow blocks, hit the edge, run straight and fast. Ho hum. Next time, try doing a flip, or fighting a dragon in the center O, or something.
#11 - Boseko Lokombo pick-six vs. Stanford: "The Nail in the Coffin" BoLo keeps finding himself in the right place at the right time, and his fourth career touchdown sealed the fate of the previously-unbeaten Stanford Cardinal.
#10 - Darron Thomas to Colt Lyerla vs. Oregon State: "Yeah, He's a True Freshman Too" De'Anthony Thomas may be the crown jewel of the 2010 recruiting class thus far, but Colt .32 seems poised to become the next great Oregon tight end.
#9 - LaMichael James punt return vs. Nevada: "You Gotta Wrap Him Up" You can't passively tackle LaMike. He's too
fat strong for that. And he shows both his strength and his speed on this return, running through two tackles and sprinting to daylight. It's similar to Cliff Harris' second punt return against New Mexico last season, only tidier.
#8 - Darron Thomas to De'Anthony Thomas vs. Stanford: "Baiting the Trap on 4th and 7" The Cardinal brought initial pressure, and by the time they realized what was happening, Oregon had DAT in space and three blockers in front of him.
#7 - De'Anthony Thomas kickoff return vs. Washington State "Look Out, He's Gone" The acceleration needed to absorb that first hit and immediately burst out of the middle of five defenders is not something a true freshman should possess. I'm glad he's on my team.
#6a - Darron Thomas to Lavasier Tuinei against Arizona State: "From Nothing to Everything, Part 1"
#6b - Darron Thomas to Lavasier Tuinei against Washington State: "From Nothing to Everything, Part 2" I mean, these plays are virtually the same. The throw against ASU is a rope to the corner of the endzone, and a great catch by Tuinei. Against WSU, DT has to scramble further, and gets blasted as he releases the ball, but still manages to heave it fifty yards into Tuinei's waiting arms. A great block by David Paulson springs the score. I can't decide which one is better, so I'm not going to.
#5 - Darron Thomas to De'Anthony Thomas vs. Nevada: "The Black Mamba Strikes" I know what you're thinking: This is only #5?!? But he faked out two guys with one head fake! Yes. Yes he did fake out two guys with one head fake. And yes, there are four touchdowns better than this one. But this one is pretty damn awesome.
#4 - Darron Thomas to David Paulson vs. Arizona State: "The Hands" I'm putting this play over our #5 entry because of the situation: this play capped off a lightning-quick drive at the end of the first half, and it gave the Ducks the lead heading into halftime. A perfect throw by DT, and just one of David Paulson's many unbelievable catches. FYI, he got three feet in bounds. Three. That's two more than he needed.
#3 - Darron Thomas to Josh Huff vs. Stanford: "Can't Touch This" This is the Josh Huff we were hoping to see every single game of 2011, and it's the Josh Huff that, when healthy, is vital to the success of the Oregon offense. His first head fake is filthy, but only serves to set up the even filthier double fake he puts on Stanford's Michael Thomas, the last line of defense. Touchdown Ducks.
#2 - Bryan Bennett to De'Anthony Thomas vs. Washington State: "The Slalom" Poor Tyree Toomer. He never stood a chance. For me, the most impressive part of the play is when he shrugs off a pretty major arm tackle at the 40 yard line. Just imagine how hard he'll be to take down after an off-season of Jim Radcliffe's workout plan. And who else besides me forgot that Bennett threw this pass? Be honest.
#1 - De'Anthony Thomas kickoff return vs. USC: "Don't Call it a Comeback" If Maldonado's kick goes in, this is the play we're all talking about. This is the one that propelled Oregon to a miraculous comeback against USC, and into a rematch with LSU in the national championship game. But the kick didn't go in. It doesn't change the fact that this is the most impressive touchdown of the season. First contact came 84 yards from the endzone. He was bottled up along the sideline at midfield; he had no business housing that kick. But he did. And he's a freshman.