Oregon running back LaMichael James was injured at the beginning of the fourth quarter in last night’s win over Cal. The injury came as he landed awkwardly on his arm. The play before he had ripped off a 15-yard run that nearly went for a touchdown if he did not step out at the three-yard line. The severity of the injury is not yet known.
James finished the night with 29 carries for 239 yards with a touchdown. It was the third consecutive game in which James eclipsed the 200-yard mark. Before last night he led the nation 613 yards, seven yards ahead of San Diego State’s Ronnie Hillman. But Hillman has carried the ball 98 times this year. James had just 65 before last night. He’s now rushed for 852 yards on 94 carries.
James is obviously one of those special players who threaten to score whenever they touch the football.
Against Nevada, Missouri State and Arizona, he had only 13 rushes for fewer than five yards (not including touchdown runs of less than five yards). Against Cal Thursday night, he had 20 rushes of fewer than five yards as the Ducks struggled to get the passing game going. But he ripped off runs of 53, 47, 39, 30, 16 and 15 yards, too, and carried the ball 29 times compared to 47 carries combined against Nevada, Missouri State and Arizona.
Still, James’ name has been absent most Heisman discussions since the Ducks fell to LSU in the opener.
Depending on the prognosis of his injury and after Thursday night’s performance, we’ll hear his name more in discussions of Heisman frontrunners. I included James in my top five Heisman contenders a couple of Mondays ago in my weekly College Football Saturday in 500 Words or Less column, and put him ‘In the hunt’ this past Monday as Oregon was coming off of the bye. Lou Holtz put him at #2 in the Heisman race during the halftime show last night.
James was the Heisman runner-up to Auburn quarterback Cam Newton last year, and surpassed 4,000 career rushing yards Thursday night. He is the school’s all-time leading rusher. We’ll update you as soon as there is any word on James’ status going forward.