Ducks prevail 48-28 in physical game against Arizona
The last time the Arizona Wildcats played in Autzen Stadium, they defeated the No. 2 Oregon Ducks 31-24, stopping the Marcus Mariota-led offense.
They met again in 2014, this time in the Pac-12 Championship game. Both teams had an opportunity to make the inaugural College Football Playoff, but the Ducks prevailed, dominating the Wildcats 51-13.
After two seasons of not playing each other, the Ducks and Wildcats played like rivals battling for a spot in the playoff (both teams were eliminated early in the season). The game was chippy and full of personal foul penalties in the first half, but it was Oregon who had the last laugh, pulling away for the 48-28 victory. The Ducks became bowl eligible with the win.
There were four personal foul penalties and two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties towards the end of the first quarter. One was when Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate stepped on Oregon defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux, resulting in a penalty and almost a fight. Linebacker Troy Dye, a mild mannered player, had to be held back because he was yelling at Tate.
“When it comes to my teammates and my defensive brothers, I’m going to stand up for those dudes no matter what,” Dye said. “I’m ready to go to war. I’m ready to go to battle with anybody. It doesn’t matter who you are, I’m ready to step in your face if you try and disrespect one of my guys.”
Oregon was the team that kept a cool head, using its physicality during the play instead of after. On the defensive end, Oregon contained Arizona’s Heisman candidate in Tate. He ran wild against Pac-12 opponents this season, averaging 11.9 yards per carry. But on Saturday, Tate only finished with 32 net yards.
“I really think the structure of our defense helped eliminate some of the things that they could do on offense,” head coach Willie Taggart said.
The Ducks kept an outside linebacker focused on Tate the entire game, attacking him directly during read plays, which forced the ball out of his hands. The Ducks used wide receiver Demetri Burch as the scout team quarterback to simulate Tate during the two weeks of preparation.
The strategy paid off.
“I believe that Burch gave us a better look than Tate did tonight,” cornerback Ugo Amadi said. “I think we executed pretty well.”
It was the much-anticipated return of quarterback Justin Herbert, but it was the running game that returned to form and dominated.
Both Royce Freeman and Tony Brooks-James had over 100 yards, the majority of Oregon’s 353 rushing yards in the game. Freeman had not scored a touchdown since Sept. 23 against Arizona State. He had four on Saturday night, passing LaMichael James for the most in Oregon school history after Freeman scored his first touchdown of the game and 59th of his career.
Royce Freeman's 59th career TD makes him Oregon's all-time leader. With 26 rush yards, he's also moves into 10th in NCAA history (5,390). pic.twitter.com/2jGObRemGv
— Oregon Football (@oregonfootball) November 19, 2017
Herbert’s impact went beyond the passing game. The Ducks have not had the threat of a deep pass during his absence, so the defense could not solely attack the run. The Ducks had 11 run plays of over 10 yards against Arizona, and even Herbert had a 40-yard touchdown run.
“Besides all the penalties, we thought it was our best game all together so far,” Mondeaux said. “It’s great when you get bowl eligible. It’s a big accomplishment. It was a big celebration in the locker room.”
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917
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