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"It's tough when you lose two in a row like that," confessed John Mackovic. "Everybody searches for answers."
Oregon did not play particularly well, but didn't need to in the rout over Arizona. The Wildcat defense made things difficult in the first half, but an ineffective offense made it impossible to take advantage of a somewhat lackluster Duck performance.
Mike Hankwitz's defensive game plan was sound, and for the first quarter the Wildcats were able to field a bend-but-don't-break unit that yielded the Ducks just two Jared Siegel field goals.
The defense forced the Oregon runners to the outside and had the Duck passing game looking for short hitters. Poor tackling and effective third down plays helped Oregon dominate the time of possession by nearly eight minutes in the first half.
"If you're on the field that long, you're on the field that long," said Clay Hardt. "You just have to deal with it."
But as the game wore on, Arizona wore out.
In the decisive first half, it was the offense that really failed to help the cause. Nic Costa played all but the final series of the first half and led the Cats to just 11 yards of total offense. Costa actually began the game 5-5 passing, but picked up just 33 yards in the air.
Even with Ryan O'Hara in the game things were shaky at best. O'Hara managed to pass for 113 yards, but was rushed most of the time and made bad decisions. He completed just 11-of-27 attempts.
All told the Wildcats had just 180 yards of total offense and were dominated in time of possession and total plays. Oregon held the ball for almost nine minutes more than the Wildcats.
Mike Bell got the start at tailback and struggled. His fumble on the first drive not only lost 12 yards, but gave the Ducks the ball at the Wildcat 19.
Despite the crowd chanting his name from the start of the game, Clarence Farmer did not get a carry until the second quarter. Farmer got the majority of the carries in the final three-quarters, but by then the Wildcat offense was in a perpetual passing situation. The senior finished the game with 42 yards on 11 carries.
Arizona's defense showed up strong early on. The Cats stopped Oregon on their first drive but then had to come right back out following a Mike Bell fumble deep in Arizona territory. The defense held Oregon again, forcing the Ducks to settle for a Siegel chip shot field goal and 3-0 lead.
Oregon played the entire second quarter in Arizona territory. It started drives at midfield, the Wildcat 39 and the Wildcat 48. The Ducks held the ball for almost 12 minutes, and scored another field goal and a pair of touchdowns to break open the game. Oregon's first drive of the quarter was a roller coaster of emotions for both teams. Penalties cost each team a big play, but in the end it was Oregon that prevailed. The Ducks appeared to score on a nifty run by Kenny Washington, but a hold brought it back. A penalty cost the Wildcats a chance to end the drive as well. Darrell Brooks intercepted a Jason Fife pass, but Zeonte Sherman was flagged for a pass interference penalty that moved the Ducks into the redzone. On the next play Fife ran the option, which was snuffed out by the Wildcats, but two spin moves broke sloppy tackles and the quarterback strolled into the endzone.
Oregon fumbled on the next possession but the Cats could do little off of the turnover and a blocked punt gave Oregon the ball just inside of the 50. This time it was Clemens' turn to lead the offense. The sophomore hit Tim Day on first and 15 for a 20 yard gain, then finished it with a pretty misdirection play action pass to Demetrious Williams for a three-yard score and a 20-0 lead.
The Cats finally turned to O'Hara for the final drive of the half. After gaining just 11 yards in the first 28:58, O'Hara led the Cats on a drive that did not result in a score, but helped boost the confidence of the floundering offense. The team drove to the 46 thanks in part to a 15-yard scramble by the deceptively nimble O'Hara.
The momentum carried over into the second half. O'Hara and Farmer teamed on an effective drive into Oregon territory. Like the possession to conclude the first half, this drive stalled at the 27 but Wildcats got on the scoreboard with a Bobby Gill field goal.
Arizona kept the momentum for a few plays, but Clemens and Williams quickly dashed Arizona's hopes for a comeback. Things started well when Marcus Hollingsworth delivered a vicious blow on the kickoff follwing Gill's field goal, jarring the ball loose. However, Oregon recovered and made the most of it. The defense made the Ducks work, they had to convert a third and six, but couldn't make the big play. Clemens was flushed, broke a tackle and found Williams who had gotten behind the zone for a 65-yard score.
Arizona tacked on a late score when O'Hara found Biren Ealy on a 53-yard pass play.
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