EUGENE, Ore. — LaMichael James rushed for three touchdowns and Darron Thomas passed for three as No. 8 Oregon defeated UCLA 49-31 on Friday night in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game to earn a Rose Bowl berth.
Thomas also rushed for a touchdown and became Oregon’s career passing touchdowns leader as the Ducks (11-2) outgunned the Bruins (6-7) in Rick Neuheisel’s final game as UCLA coach.
Oregon meets the winner of today’s Big Ten title game between Wisconsin and Michigan State in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2.
James rushed for 220 yards to move into third place in Pac-12 history with 4,924 yards. He passed Southern California’s Marcus Allen (4,810 from 1978-81). Thomas has 63 career touchdown passes, surpassing Danny O’Neil (1991-94) as the school leader.
James came into the game as the nation’s top running back with an average of 142.7 yards a game.
James scored first-half touchdowns on runs of 30 and 3 yards as Oregon built a 35-17 halftime lead. Thomas threw touchdown passes of 7 yards to Colt Lyerla and 25 yards to Daryle Hawkins as well as scoring on a 10-yard run.
UCLA scored first-half touchdowns on Patrick Larimore’s 34-yard interception return and Kevin Prince’s 37-yard pass to Nelson Rosario.
Prince scored on a 1-yard run early in the third quarter to pull the Bruins within 35-24 but James scored on a 5-yard run two-plus minutes later and Thomas tossed a 22-yard scoring pass to David Paulson to give the Ducks a 25-point lead with 4:45 remaining in the third quarter.
UCLA’s Rosario made an acrobatic one-handed 19-yard touchdown catch with 1:54 left in the game.
Neuheisel finished 21-29 in four years as coach of his alma mater. He was fired following last weekend’s 50-0 loss to rival Southern California.