EUGENE - An injury to the last player Oregon fans wanted to see get hurt happened Thursday night.
Junior running back LaMichael James was having another career night in ninth-ranked Oregon's 43-15 Pac-12 win against California when he injured his elbow after fumbling inside the Bears 5 early in the fourth quarter.
James, a 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist, fell to the ground and was carted off the field with his arm in a soft cast a few minutes later as the Autzen Stadium crowd chanted his name.
James was all smiles afterward as he told the media he popped his dislocated elbow back into place while lying on the turf.
James, whose arm was in a sling under his gray Oregon sweatshirt, said he suffered the same injury in high school and played the next week.
"You can do that in high school. College is a little different," he said. "It was out so I just popped it back in. I can't go out like that."
James said the injury was painful and that X-rays showed there were no broken bones. But it was more painful to him that he wasn't able to finish the game with his teammates. His status for next week's home game against Arizona State was unknown Thursday night.
James said it was the contact with a Cal defender and not hitting the ground that caused the injury.
James finished the game with 239 yards rushing and a touchdown on 30 carries. It marked the first time an Oregon player had rushed for 200 or more yards in three straight games.
The crowd remained mostly in a somber mood throughout the rest of the game, even as the Ducks (4-1, 2-0) continued their dominant play.
Kenjon Barner made sure he wasn't going to completely take a backseat to James' performance.
James had just passed the 200-yard mark with a 16-yard run in the third quarter. But Barner had his own highlight, taking a handoff and going 68 yards for a touchdown that gave the Ducks some breathing room.
Oregon looked like the second-half team it was in so many games in 2010.
Quarterback Darron Thomas found the rhythm he lacked in Thursday's first half, and his connection with freshman running back De'Anthony Thomas was a big reason why.
De'Anthony Thomas caught a 23-yard touchdown pass to cap a 13-yard drive to open the second half as the Ducks took the lead for good.
He also caught a two-point conversion pass from Darron Thomas after Oregon's next touchdown, Barner's 68-yard run.
It was Thomas to Thomas for a touchdown on the Ducks' next drive, this time for 21 yards, giving the Ducks a 36-15 lead.
De'Anthony Thomas later caught a 42-yard pass from his quarterback that moved the ball deep in Cal territory. James then ran for 15 yards before being injured on the following play.
The game was delayed for several minutes as trainers tended to James, who writhed in pain with his back on the turf.
"He's down. I think he's hurting more emotionally than he is physically," Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell said. "I know he's a warrior and he's going to make the best effort possible to get back."
Oregon put the game away on the next play, with Darron Thomas hitting Lavasier Tuinei with a 3-yard touchdown pass.
The Ducks exposed California and its ninth-rated rushing defense, running for 332 yards through three quarters. The Bears came in allowing 78 yards per game.
The Oregon defense continued its overall strong season performance on third downs.
The Ducks, who entered the game allowing opponents 37-percent conversions on third downs, held the Bears to 5 of 17.
"It wasn't really anything big, we just got it together and just talked it over and regained their poise," defensive back Anthony Gildon said of his team's second-half shutout. "We executed like we wanted to execute all along."
The first half was filled with big plays and inconsistency from both quarterbacks.
Oregon answered Cal's opening field goal with a 53-yard touchdown run by James on the second play from scrimmage. The handoff to James fooled all but two Cal defenders, and James outran them down the left sideline for the score.
The Bears came back with another field goal to close within 7-6 before each team had a three-and-out drive. Oregon then went 70 yards in seven plays, capped by De'Anthony Thomas' 17-yard touchdown run on a reverse.
Cal got another field goal, this time a career-long 54-yarder by Giorgio Tavecchio to get within 14-9.
The Ducks couldn't convert a fourth down from the Cal 41 on their next drive and the Bears capitalized.
Cal got three big plays, the last being a 12-yard touchdown pass from Zach Maynard to Keenan Allen. The 2-point conversion pass failed but the Bears had the lead.
Oregon looked to be headed toward a score late in the half, but Darron Thomas was rushed on a third-down play and his throw off his back foot was intercepted by Cal's D.J. Campbell. It was the Ducks' first turnover since the season opener against LSU.
The Bears reached the Ducks' 23 in the closing seconds of the half, but Oregon's John Boyett got his hand on a Tavecchio 40-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
Neither quarterback got on track in the first 30 minutes. Darron Thomas was 8 of 19 for 101 yards. Maynard was 11 of 24 for 131 yards.