As the Rose Bowl ended last year, with Ohio State emerging victorious over the Oregon Ducks, Chip Kelly had a starter entrenched at the quarterback spot. Jeremiah Masoli led the Ducks to a Pac-10 championship and was ready for what promised to be a huge senior year. In the blink of an eye it all changed, triggered by a series of bad decisions from the quarterback. As the Ducks get set for the BCS Championship against Auburn on Monday night, they’ll do so without Masoli, but with a different, capable signal-caller and decision-maker: Darron Thomas.
After a fierce quarterback battle throughout fall camp, with Thomas and senior Nate Costa going head-to-head for the starting spot, Chip Kelly went with Thomas, the redshirt sophomore. At the time, it was a difficult decision, but looking back, Kelly made a brilliant call choosing Thomas as his quarterback.
Masoli was more of a bruising quarterback, electing to tuck-and-run when his first option wasn’t there. With Thomas, Oregon became a more complete team, thanks in large part to his decision-making in the passing game and ability to make the tough throws. No longer just a run-based spread-option team, the Ducks offense rose to a new level with Thomas at the helm.
Thomas finished the season with 2,500 yards and 28 touchdowns, to only seven interceptions, for the Ducks. His rushing yardage — 492 yards and five touchdowns — doesn’t blow anyone away, but he has the ability to pull the ball down and take off, as well, keeping the defense honest. With burners LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner in the backfield, Oregon has a three-headed attack on offense, capable of beating teams in a variety of different ways.
That one missing element — a viable, mostly-reliable passing game — may have been just what the doctor order for the Ducks, propelling them to the BCS Championship. Kelly’s decision back in August, choosing Thomas to orchestrate his high-powered offensive scheme, was one of many reasons the Ducks are here, playing for college football’s highest honor.