Arizona too 'great' for Ducks
Oregon offense unravels often in loss to Wildcats
TUCSON, Ariz. Arizona played a great game in beating Oregon 42-16 on Saturday.
Ka'Deem Carey rushed for 206 yards and four scores on 48 carries.
Quarterback B.J. Denker made plays with his feet (102 yards rushing) and arm (19 of 22 for 178 yards and two TDs).
And the Arizona defense took advantage of three Oregon turnovers as it held down the Ducks' offense.
But, the overwhelming thing that came from Saturday's game?
Take away the 2008 rain-soaked game at Cal, and the Ducks had not lost to a non-upper echelon team since 2007 and even then, the Ducks lost to Arizona, UCLA and Oregon State after its top two quarterbacks went down injured.
The Wildcats entered Saturday's game at 6-4 overall and 3-4 in Pac-12 play, having lost consecutive games to UCLA and Washington State.
In recent years, the Ducks would rout teams, or at least win convincingly, in the same situation.
But that didn't happen Saturday. Much like the Stanford game, where the Ducks trailed 26-0 at one point and the score could have been worse, Oregon (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12) got outclassed at Arizona Stadium.
Not much went right for the Ducks.
First of all, the Wildcats controlled the Duck defense throughout the game with the elusive Denker and his short passes and Carey's strong running and offensive line play. Arizona rushed for 304 yards on 65 carries, and had the ball for 35:29 to UO's 24:31. The Wildcats were 11 of 16 on third-down conversions and 6 for 6 in red-zone opportunities.
Carey became Arizona's all-time leading rusher and all-time touchdown maker, with 49 in his career.
"We knew that offense was pretty much our offense," defensive end Taylor Hart said, of Arizona's fast pace and balance. "And, they executed really well with their run and pass. Even if we stopped the run, (Denker) would pull the ball or pass it. It was tough for us.
"We were finally able to stop them," Hart added, of a stretch of four defensive stops in five UA possessions, "but then to not get points makes it difficult. It seemed like things weren't working out."
Said defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti: "They beat us at the line of scrimmage, and Carey and the quarterback were fantastic."
But, offensively, the Ducks unraveled. Oregon had 506 yards, but only 198 came on the ground the Ducks couldn't control the game with their rushing attack. Running back Byron Marshall exited the game with a first-half foot injury. Thomas Tyner fumbled in a key stretch. De'Anthony Thomas had his moments with 83 yards on 16 carries and also had six catches for 74 yards.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota said he felt better, although he continued to not want to talk about his injured knee. He went 27 of 41 for 308 yards and two scores, but threw his first two interceptions of the year including a pick on UO's first offensive play, ending his Pac-12-record streak of 353 consecutive passes without an interception. He also ran for 52 yards on eight carries.
Offensive mistakes prevented the Ducks from staying close. They started with Mariota's interception, when Arizona's Shaquille Richardson batted a ball that had bounced off Oregon's Bralon Addison to the Wildcats' Scooby Wright. On the next series, Thomas dropped a wide-open third-down pass, and later explained, inexplicably: "It was a surprise ball. I feel like I made up for it fast (with a one-handed grab). You just have to forget about it."
Marshall suffered his injury on what appeared to be a 5-yard run to the UA 1. But a replay said he had gone down at the UA 6. Then, right end Pharaoh Brown got a holding penalty. The Ducks scored only three points on that drive.
Tyner, bursting out on an 8-yard run, got stripped from behind by Tra'Mayne Bondurant and turned over the ball.
On the next series, on fourth-and-2, Mariota fumbled on a carry. The Ducks recovered but short of the first down. The Wildcats then scored another touchdown on a one-minute drive to go ahead 28-9 at halftime.
The Ducks had rallied, offensively, in the second half of other games. But not Saturday.
Oregon failed on a fourth-down conversion and punted (after a minus-12-yard run by Thomas) on its first two possessions of the second half, and Arizona scored again to go up 35-9.
There were other mistakes, penalties and such. The Ducks of the 8-0 start were a distant memory at Arizona Stadium.
All in all, Arizona was the better team, and the Ducks will not be going to their fifth consecutive BCS game.
Thomas and Josh Huff had remarked during the week about the Rose Bowl not being the goal, even after the USC win against Stanford that put the Ducks back atop the Pac-12 North.
The remarks came back to bite them in the butt Thomas said playing for the Rose wasn't a big deal, but after Saturday's game said, "I don't feel like (the comment) should have that much attention. I feel like people just try to flip stories and stuff like that. That stuff is in the past. We worry about the moment."
Clearly, the Ducks are struggling as the prepare for the Civil War game against Oregon State, 4 p.m. Friday at Autzen Stadium.
Huff admitted that the Ducks came out flat against the Wildcats; Helfrich said the team had some bad mind-set moments on Friday, but he felt the squad had gathered itself for the game.
"How we started, very sluggish in every phase, that's 100 percent my fault," Helfrich said. "Coulda, woulda, shoulda there were several of those (plays) today."
Asked about his emotions, the first-year head man said: "Not very happy. It's a very frustrating thing."
Later, after giving Arizona much credit, he added: "We're a team, that if (we) get beat, they rush the field. Whoever we play is 100 percent dialed in to get that job done. They did a great job of it."
Mariota got hit in the head while making a tackle after his second interception in the fourth quarter. He said he was "all right," but didn't know the exact prognosis. A concussion, perhaps?
Mariota said he thought the Ducks "were in a good spot" mentally for the game.
He added: "I felt pretty good. Things happen. The ball doesn't bounce your way sometimes. You just gotta battle through it. Arizona did a good job of pushing it, keeping (momentum) going. We're going to work on things we messed up."
It was an interesting day for Arizona (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12). The weather wasn't good leading up to the game, as rain soaked the field and kept many fans away. Would the Wildcats be motivated to play the high-powered Ducks, after consecutive losses to UCLA and Washington State?
Well, the day turned out pretty well. The weather cleared up, more fans gathered in the stands (announced crowd: 45,777), and Denker and Carey and their teammates played really well on Senior Day. Fans rushed the field to celebrate with the Wildcats, who now prepare to play rival Arizona State.
"Well, that was fun," second-year UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. "It was a great way for our seniors to go out. We executed well, and we tried to make them earn everything. B.J. was sharp and Ka'Deem was Ka'Deem. This was a great opportunity, and we took advantage of it. We were really dialed in the whole game."
Said Denker: "It's a great feeling. This is a crazy win for our program. Everything went right. I don't think I've played a better-feeling game."
Added Carey: "I knew we needed energy when you play a great team like them. I ran hard and with a passion today to help get the crowd in the game."
Safety Jake Fischer summed up Arizona's reaction to the win, UA's first in the series since 2007.
"I'm glad that we could finally beat Oregon," he said. "It feels great."