Arizona coach praises Herbert
EUGENE — Notes and quotes from the Arizona press conference after Oregon's 48-28 win Saturday night:
• When Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert's name was announced as the starting quarterback, the Autzen Stadium crowd exploded.
Herbert looked a bit rusty after missing five full games, throwing an interception early in the second quarter. However, the Ducks' signal- caller gave Oregon a spark it never had with true freshman Braxton Burmeister at QB during Herbert's recovery from a broken collarbone.
Herbert was able to stretch the field vertically, attempting and completing several long passes. He finished the game 14 of 21 for 235 yards, with one touchdown pass and one interception.
"He played great," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "I knew he was going to throw the ball down the field. He's a big, strong guy. We did not play the ball well at all. We haven't played the ball well at all for a few weeks. He throws the ball up there and we're spinning in circles and we're letting them catch it, or we're getting run by. He did a nice job."
Herbert also hurt the Wildcats with his feet. As much as Ducks fans may have not wanted to see Herbert running immediately after being hurt on a run play against California on Sept. 30, the sophomore QB took off four times and scored a touchdown in the first quarter with a 40-yard scramble.
• The main benefactor of the Ducks' downfield passing threat: Oregon's tailbacks.
The run game finally opened up, with the Wildcats unable to stack the box and play only for the run.
Oregon finished the game with 353 yards on the ground. Tony Brooks-James had 124 yards on 19 carries, and Royce Freeman led the attack with 19 carries for 135 yards and four touchdowns, the first of which made him Oregon's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns.
"He's a great player," Arizona linebacker Tony Fields said. "He's a definite league (NFL) guy. He made big plays."
• The first half was beyond chippy, with trash talking, pushing, shoving and the field littered with yellow penalty flags.
"The first half we were competing, but we were just totally, uncharacteristically undisciplined," Rodriguez said. "We just can't afford to do those things. They had some (penalties), too, and the game was close, but we can't afford to do those things. We just can't. Sometimes when you're young, or whatever, you think that's the way you show your intensity. But it's not."
The most egregious moment came early in the second quarter. Herbert tried to throw downfield and was picked off by Dane Cruikshank at the Arizona 32-yard line. Cruikshank broke a couple of tackles, reversed field and blew past the Oregon offense. As he went toward the end zone, Cruikshank started taunting the would-be Ducks tacklers.
A flag came out. The penalty, unsportsmanlike conduct, was obvious. The result of the penalty, that the 68-yard touchdown would not count, was jarring.
Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate was able to bail out Arizona, though, by completing a 15-yard touchdown on third-and-6, tying the score 14-14 and saving the Wildcats from a monumental momentum shift.
Still, Rodriguez was not amused by Cruikshank's antics.
"You should never do it," Rodriguez said. "It should never, ever, ever, ever happen. Never do it. Lesson learned."
• Tate came into the game with Heisman Trophy buzz surrounding him despite starting only six games. The sophomore had been borderline unstoppable on the ground, rushing for 1,293 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had also completed 65 of 105 passes for 998 yards and eight touchdowns, with six interceptions.
The Ducks' defense made Tate look very human. Oregon held Tate to 32 yards rushing and no touchdowns on 14 carries. Tate was never able to break away, either. His long run was 13 yards. He completed 18 of 35 passes for 159 yards, for one touchdown and with two interceptions.
"They had some success slowing him down," Rodriguez said. "We didn't block them well, we didn't read them well. They (the Ducks) did a good job. The frustrating part is we'll probably watch the film and they were playing the exact way we thought they would play. They played it better than us."
• If Tate should someday find himself accepting the Heisman Trophy, it is a bit difficult to imagine what his speech might sound like. He did not come across as the chattiest fellow after Saturday's game.
A question and answer sample from his postgame press conference:
Q: What did Oregon do to slow you down?
A: "They played football."
Q: What went wrong offensively?
A: "They played well."
Q: How do you feel you played?
A: "Played the same. Took what they gave me. Just got to come out on top next time."
Q: This was your first game without a long run. Did you feel it was going to come?
A: "No, not really. We lost, so that's the main topic."
Q: Were you frustrated?
A: "Not frustrated. We were losing, so that can make you pretty mad."
Q: You had a couple of interceptions. What wasn't clicking?
A: "We were just off on some of the throws. Yeah."
Q: What was the atmosphere like with the crowd noise and the cold weather?
A: "It was kind of cold and the crowd did a (good) job."
Q: What did you think of Justin Herbert?
A: "He did well. They won the game. That's all that matters."
• Saturday's game featured a brotherly rivalry with Ducks sophomore receiver Brenden Schooler and Wildcats freshman linebacker Colin Schooler.
"It was fun while it was going on," Colin Schooler said. "I didn't know what I was expecting when I came into it, but it was dope."
The two did make contact once during the night, but it was fairly un-memorable.
"He tried to crack me one time," Colin Schooler said. "I saw it coming. We just kind of collided, but nothing special."