Tucson, Ariz. • Arizona Stadium
September 12th, 2003 • 7:00 PM MST
Radio: KNST (Brian Jefferies, Les Josephson)
Television: TBS (Ron Thulin, Charles Davis, Craig Sager and Erin Andrews)
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OREGON AT A GLANCE
Coach: Mike Bellotti (67-29, 8 years)
Offense: Pro set
2002 Record: 7-6; Pac-10 3-5, 8th (Lost to Wake Forest in the Seattle Bowl)
Site: Eugene, OR
Series Record: Oregon leads 16-12
Last Meeting: The Ducks beat the Cats 31-14 last season to win their fourth game in a row against Arizona.
LAST TIME OUT
The Wildcats were pasted 59-13 by LSU. It was the third worst home defeat in school history. Oregon had to hold off a pesky Nevada club in a 31-23 win. The Ducks led 24-7 before Nevada mounted a comeback that had the Ducks holding on to preserve the victory.
WHEN OREGON HAS THE BALL
Scoring points has not been a problem for the Ducks. They have put up 42 and 31 in consecutive games and look to have another high power offense under Bellotti.
Bellotti is going with a two-quarterback rotation, something he has done several times in his career, and it seems to be working. Bellotti has praised the attitudes of both Kellen Clemens and Jason Fife in their handling of the situation. Clemens is getting more snaps and he's been producing. He has thrown for over 400 yards and five scores in two games, despite sharing time.
Fife, last year's starter, is making the most of his limited action. All the senior has done is complete 11-of-13 passes for 168 yards and a pair of scores. Neither passer has thrown an interception.
Oregon is averaging 193 yards a game thanks to the one-two punch of Terrance Whitehead and Ryan Shaw. Neither player makes as big an impact as the departed Onterrio Smith, but they both average over four yards a carry.
The receiving corps are solid. Sammie Parker returns and he's a weapon. He struggled a bit down the stretch last season, but he has the potential to be one of the conference's better receivers. All he has done so far is average over 19 yards per catch and score three touchdowns. Lining up on the opposite side is Demetrius Williams, who has proven to be a scoring threat as well.
The Ducks return all five starters on the offensive line, plus another player who has starting experience. They have very good size and should provide quite a challenge for the thin Wildcat defensive line.
The Cats are reeling after being dominated by LSU. Due to a lack of defensive linemen, the Wildcats have put the 3-4 on the back burner and will go with a 4-3 that employs Clay Hardt as a rover. Pat Howard has been playing great at linebacker but he is a little dinged up.
The secondary seemed to be the Cats' strength, but they had their troubles with the LSU receivers last week. Darrell Brooks and Lamon Means look like they could be one of the Pac-10's top young safety duos.
WHEN ARIZONA HAS THE BALL
Which Wildcat offense will show up? The one that easily put up 42 points on UTEP or the one that looked clueless against LSU?
The Cats will continue to go with a two-quarterback system of their own, but Mackovic has said that he won't hesitate to go with the hot hand if it means having a chance to win. Nic Costa has been the better of the two passers, but Ryan O'Hara is solid as well. Costa is the better runner of the two and don't be surprised if the Wildcats try to take advantage of his speed.
The running back situation is a bit unclear. Mike Bell looked great against UTEP, but was not effective against LSU. Clarence Farmer was one of the few bright spots against the Tigers and may be the healthiest of all the running backs. Bell adds a speedy alternative to Farmer's more pounding style and don't be surprised if Beau Carr gets some work on short yardage situations.
The Cats only completed two passes to wide receivers last week, so you can bet they want to get them involved. Biren Ealy looks to be a rising star, while Ricky Williams and Lance Relford look to be reliable targets. Don't be shocked if the Cats try to get tight end Steve Fleming involved early.
The offensive line is a weakness, due in large part to the lack of depth. The Cats are very thin, so they have to hope fatigue or injury is not a factor.
Oregon's defense has been shaky early on and it looks like they will surrender a lot of points. Whether this is a weakness or just the product of the offense's effectiveness remains to be seen. Talk of the defense starts with multi-talented linebacker Kevin Mitchell. He's one of the best backers in the conference and has drawn the praise of the Wildcats' players and coaches.
"If I were a regular fan, Kevin Mitchell would be one of my favorite players," confessed Mackovic.
The defensive line is solid, especially in the middle where the Ducks' size is astounding. Both Igor Olshansky and Haloti Ngata are over 300 pounds, with Ngata just a hair under 340. Back-up tackle Junior Siavii is 320 as well. This could be a huge challenge for the Wildcats who aren't the most overpowering group up front.
The biggest challenge for the Ducks come from the secondary. The unit is experienced, but struggled a year ago. They are giving up 265 yards a contest and have allowed teams to come back on them after building big leads. Expect Arizona to attack the unit and see if they can have similar success.
Both teams are trying to learn more about themselves. Oregon is 2-0 but they have looked up and down against inferior teams. Arizona is not as good as they looked against UTEP and probably not as bad as they looked against LSU. Just how good or how bad they are remains to be seen, but a lot of questions will be answered this Saturday. Oregon looks to be a middle of the conference team and the Cats would like to get to that level. Do the Cats have the heart to come back from the LSU defeat? Just how good is Oregon really? A win by Arizona would be a pretty big upset and maybe a more realistic goal would be to hang with the Ducks.
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