KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – When Tennessee started slowing down, LaMichael James and his Oregon teammates picked up the pace.
James ran for 134 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown, in his first game back after a one-game suspension, and No. 7 Oregon scored 45 consecutive points to beat Tennessee 48-13 on Saturday night.
The Pac-10's leading returning rusher had only 27 yards at halftime after being targeted by the Volunteers' defense for the entire first half. He rushed for 25 yards on five carries in the Oregon's first second-half drive and then broke several tackles on the 72-yard touchdown run on the first play of the subsequent drive for the Ducks (2-0).
James, who rushed for a Pac-10 freshman record 1,546 yards in 2009, returned to action after serving his suspension for an offseason misdemeanor harassment charge.
Tennessee (1-1) went up 13-3 in the first half after an hour-long delay for lightning but fell apart after James' long run.
"We didn't make any adjustments in the second half," James said. "It comes down to tempo. Once the tempo gets going, it's hard to stop. Once those guys got tired we kept rolling."
Only fans in green and yellow remained in Neyland Stadium by the time Oregon was done scoring the most poinst by a Tennessee opponent there since Florida beat the Vols 59-20 in 2007. It was the most points by a nonconference opponent since Washington State, another Pac-10 school, won 52-24 in 1988.
The Vols were penalized for having an ineligible receiver on one play and a false start on another. A pass by Matt Simms intended for Zach Rogers was cleanly picked off by Cliff Harris, who returned it 76-yards for another score to give Oregon a 27-13 lead with 6:27 left in the third quarter.
"I was real disappointed from then on with how we competed," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. "You would have thought we were down 40."
Simms, who completed 15 of 29 for 151 yards, struggled to connect with his receivers. Tauren Poole and backup David Oku couldn't get their footing, and the Vols picked up only three more first downs.
Kenjon Barner, who scored five touchdowns filling in for James as the Ducks' No. 1 tailback in a 72-0 win against New Mexico last week, took a punt back 80 yards for a touchdown that made it 41-13 with 11:39 left.
"They were a great team, and they just beat (us) tonight," Tennessee linebacker Nick Reveiz said. "I feel like their offense set such a tempo. As a defense you have to match that, and if you don't then you're going to get ran right by. And that's what they did to us."
It was a far different story in the first half.
The Vols got a 48-yard field goal from Daniel Lincoln on their first drive and immediately got the ball back when Barner fumbled the following kickoff after a 39-yard return. Da'Rick Rogers had a 21-yard run that set up a 35-yard field goal by Lincoln with 8:53 left in the first quarter.
The Ducks struggled to find an answer for Poole, who had 111 yards rushing in the first quarter. He finished with 162 yards on 23 carries.
Oregon found some offense after a 42-yard field goal by Rob Beard with 2:56 left in the second quarter. Tennessee failed to convert a fourth down, and the Ducks answered with a 27-yard scoring strike from Darron Thomas to David Paulson that tied the game at 13 with a minute before halftime.
Thomas completed 17 of 32 for 202 yards and two touchdown passes. The Ducks picked up 447 yards of offense compared to the Vols' 333 yards, despite holding the ball three fewer minutes than Tennessee.
The officials halted play after Lincoln's second field goal when lightning was spotted in the area. The teams spent an hour in their locker rooms as heavy rain and lightning hovered over Neyland Stadium, and many of the 102,035 fans huddled under overhangs and crowded the concourses.
"We had a delay, but they had the same delay — it's just in how you handle it," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said.