Arizona Week 4 Preview: Open Season in Duck Country

In 2011, the University of Arizona lost to #10 Oregon at home 31-56. In 2010, the Cats lost to the #1 Ducks 29-48. Those are tough losses. Though they were expected, they were hard to watch.  The Cats are 0-4 in recent meetings with the Ducks. However, the 41-44 loss in 2009, covered by ESPN’s College GameDay, takes the cake in terms of hard to watch, but can’t look away games. With just 30 seconds left in the game, Arizona was leading #11 Oregon 31-24. Arizona Stadium was electrified and a victory was just as good as promised. Almost.  From the eyes of a senior in high school, who was snuck into the student section by her brothers, this was just about the epitome of an exhilarating football game. Then the students began to rush the field. In 2009, there was no wall to retain the ZonaZoo in their section. Slowly but surely, ladies were taking off their shoes, men were securing their hats and wallets and hundreds of red clad students poured onto the sidelines.  Little did they know they would be standing on the sidelines for the end of regulation, and two overtimes to follow. The Oregon Ducks tied the game with less than ten seconds remaining, and ended the game in double overtime, beating the Arizona Wildcats 44-41. Students began to file off the field and tempers began to soar.  Oregon cheerleader Katelynn Johnson was hospitalized after being hit in the head with a full water bottle, aimed at the Ducks football team, and sustained a concussion. Fortunately for me, my brothers and I stayed in the stands so that they could protect me while the others rushed the field. University of Arizona Athletics took no risks following this incident, installing a 5-foot retaining wall (with a much farther drop on the field side).  This incident, on top of the additional four losses, should light a fire underneath the Cats.

Currently 3-0 and ranked #22 in the nation, the Wildcats of Arizona are making headlines and utilizing their built up momentum.  Arizona leads the FBS in first downs, has the 7th ranked passing offense (358 yards/game), and is ranked 4th in total offense (605 yards/game).  In order to beat the #3 ranked Ducks, Arizona will have to recreate the upset from week 2, against Oklahoma State.  Smart play, ball protection, and a strong defense will be big roles in this match up. Because this is the first conference game of the season, it will be a true test for both Oregon and Arizona.  Thus far, Oregon has faced Arkansas St, Fresno St., and Tennessee Tech, all unranked teams.  Their wins have not been close: the victory over Tennessee Tech was by a 49 point margin. Oregon’s Sophomore running back De’Anthony Thomas will need to be contained for the Cats to minimize points allowed.  Thomas is a utility player with impressive stats this season, but was of very little help in the 2011 victory over the Cats with only 1 rush for 3 yards and 19 receiving yards (of course they didn’t need help with LaMichael James rushing for 288 yards in that game).

Arizona players have been working hard in practice over the past weeks, improving on their game play every day.  Sources say ball protection has been improved this past week and one player’s goal for himself, and for the team, is no fumbles on his part.  Fans are optimistic about this match up due to the amount of confidence Arizona is running on. After “Upset City” against OK St., and an easy win over SCSU, fans are hoping the Cats can pull ahead to 4-0, jump up in rankings, and break the 4-game losing streak against what is arguably the best team in the PAC-12 now that USC lost this past weekend.  As if bitter history isn’t enough, Arizona’s Athletic Director Greg Byrne has a bit to prove. Byrne’s father, Bill Byrne, was the AD for Oregon from 1983-1992.

Saturday’s game will begin at 730PM at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, OR. The game is being broadcast on ESPN, 1290 AM in Tucson, and on Sirius 93/XM194 satellite radio.

From the heart of Wildcat Country, Bear Down.