Arizona football notes: Wildcats face tall task at Oregon
When No. 22 Arizona and No. 3 Oregon take the field Saturday night in Eugene, Ore., one thing is certain about the Wildcats’ first road test of the season: There will be plenty of points on the board.
Both the Ducks (3-0) and Wildcats (3-0) use a shotgun spread-option offense, which many consider Arizona’s head coach Rich Rodriguez the pioneer of the formation. Oregon head coach Chip Kelly came to him to get some pointers on the system while Kelly was at New Hampshire in the early 2000s.
“He’s done some really neat stuff,” Rodriguez said at a weekly Monday press conference. “We watch each other on film and we see similarities. They’ll push the tempo. If they get a big play, they’ll come right back and run the same play over again.”
Oregon’s offense scores an average of 54 points per game and has 23 offensive touchdowns already through three home games. Arizona’s attack has been almost as prolific, averaging 46 points with 18 touchdowns.
The Ducks, like Arizona, have a dual-threat quarterback in Marcus Mariota. The redshirt freshman has amassed 782 total yards and eight passing touchdowns through three games.
Similar to the UA, Oregon runs a no-huddle, fast paced offense.
“We’re probably more similar philosophically to Oregon than a lot of teams in the country that run a shotgun spread,” Rodriguez said. “They don’t let you sub defensively or catch your breath.”
Stopping the unstoppable
In three games this season, sophomore Oregon running back and Heisman contender De’Anthony Thomas has touched the ball a mere 31 times as a receiver, running back and kick returner, but has amassed a staggering 475 total yards of offense and seven total touchdowns.
“We have to do everything we can to contain him,” safety Jared Tevis said. “He’s real explosive.”
Needless to say, the Ducks’ most potent and prolific offensive weapon is going to give Arizona defenders headaches. It may seem obvious, but the key to stopping him relies on sound tackling.
“We go in and know we’re going to swarm to the ball,” Tevis said. “We have to smother them. He makes multiple big plays for them every game.”
The Wildcats boast the top two leading tacklers in the Pac-12 with Tevis and linebacker Jake Fischer, who leads the conference with 33 tackles. Tevis is second with 26.
Rodriguez no stranger to rowdy enviornments
Despite never having played at Oregon or even against the Ducks in his coaching career, Rodriguez is familiar with hostile atmospheres.
In Monday’s weekly press conference, Rodriguez noted the classic Michigan-Ohio State rivalry from his time as the Michigan Wolverines’ coach and how loud the stadium was during those games.
At the same time, Rodriguez also acknowledged that the atmosphere at Oregon will be different than the atmosphere against Oklahoma State, who the Wildcats upset two weeks ago with a score of 59-38.
“It gives them some confidence,” Rodriguez said. “Oregon is a better team [than Oklahoma State]. They’re a little faster, a little tougher environment because it’s on the road.
“It’s going to be loud. I would like to think that we’re going to play the same no matter who we’re playing or where we’re playing.”