EUGENE, Ore. — Darron Thomas threw for a touchdown and ran for two more and the top-ranked Oregon Ducks overcame a slow start to beat northwest rival Washington 53-16 on Saturday.
LaMichael James ran for 121 yards and three scores for the Ducks, who looked out of sorts in the first quarter when they were held scoreless for the first time this season. Their first points came on a 29-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
Playing the first game since popping into the top spot of the BCS standings, Oregon (9-0, 6-0 Pac-10) struggled with all kinds of uncharacteristic penalties and mistakes before outscoring the Huskies 35-13 in the second half.
Redshirt freshman Keith Price made his first career start for Washington (3-6, 2-4) in place of Jake Locker, who watched from the sidelines with a broken rib.
Price held his own, completing 14 of 28 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown.
He had only completed five of nine attempts going into the game. He threw a touchdown pass on his only play from scrimmage in a 32-31 victory on the road against USC on Oct. 2.
There were questions about how Price would handle the noisy Autzen Stadium crowd, which on Saturday was announced at 60,017 — the largest in the stadium’s history.
The yellow-clad throng was not treated to Oregon’s usual offensive intensity at the start.
After Oregon opened the scoring with Rob Beard’s field goal, Erik Folk’s 52-yard attempt for Washington went wide left. But Folk made another 52-yarder later in the quarter to tie the game at 3.
James finally got a touchdown for the Ducks midway through the second quarter with a 1-yard run. Beard ran in the 2-point conversion.
Before halftime Thomas ran 34 yards for a score to make it 18-3. Washington appeared to narrow it with less than a minute left with Price’s 16-yard scoring pass to Devin Aguilar, but it was called back by a penalty, and the Huskies settled for a Folk’s 27-yard field goal to make it 18-6 at the break.
Price threw a 17-yard scoring pass to D’Andre Goodwin to make it 18-13 at the start of the second half. Oregon quickly answered with Thomas’ 6-yard scoring pass to Jeff Maehl.
Oregon attempted a 26-yard field goal but Nate Costa bobbled the hold and tried to run it. Costa, Thomas’ backup at quarterback, was knocked out of bounds near Washington’s bench and appeared to injure his right knee. He left the field on a cart.
James ran 13 yards for a touchdown before Thomas scored on a 7-yard dash to close out the third quarter. James added a 1-yard scoring run early in the fourth.
James, a sophomore and the nation’s rushing leader, has run for 30 TDs at Oregon. He has 16 games with at least 100 yards.
Kenjon Barner, who had missed the past two games after sustaining a concussion against Washington State, ran 30 yards for a touchdown with 4:34 left.
Thomas completed 24 of 33 passes for 243 yards. He ran for 89 yards.
Washington has lost four of their last five games.
The Huskies lead the series against Oregon 58-40-5, but the Ducks have won the last seven games, all by 20 or more points. Last season Oregon won 43-19 at Husky Stadium.
Washington had not faced a top-ranked team since 2007, when it lost to USC 27-24.