Coach's Corner: Cats against Ducks

It's tough enough when you have to face a top-10 team. It's even tougher when they had an extra week to prepare. Factor in a rash of injuries that has the team reeling and you can bet Coach John Mackovic and his staff have some long strategy sessions ahead.

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Mackovic on the Oregon Ducks:

Mackovic: "Their defense is the most improved part of their team. They have a lot of players back. Their front seven is very active, and they are a blitz-conscious team. They really get in your face and bring pressure quite a bit. They give up less than 100 yards rushing a game, which is incredible. Their defense is very stingy, and they are playing extremely well, so we are going to have to play much better offensively if we are going to stay with them. They come out to score a lot of points, and they are not giving up many points.

"They definitely are not ready to give up their thrown. When Joey Harrington graduated, I think that a lot of people thought they would struggle, but their offense has not missed a beat. (Jason) Fife has been terrific. He is off to a good start. They train their quarterbacks to play a certain way, and you are going to see a lot of quick sets and a lot of quick throws to individual receivers. You are going to see some good play action, and you are going to see him find the tight end over the middle. You are not going to see Fife stand back in the pocket for very long.

"Their linebacker Kevin Mitchell is a fireball. He is a really good player, and he is what football is all about. He makes plays, and he hustles. If you try to go straight at him, he jumps around you, and if you try to go low, he jumps over you.

"At the beginning of the year, everyone was talking about a big showdown between Onterrio Smith and Clarence (Farmer), which won't take place. Smith is a hard, tough runner, and he had a very good game against us last year. We know he's going to get the ball, so we have to gear up and go after him."

Mackovic switched gears and discussed the Arizona defense:

Mackovic: "It will be very important for the defense to get the ball back for us this weekend. We did a nice job Saturday night with three turnovers, and we blocked a kick. David Hinton especially had a good game. He had an interception and caused a fumble. Gary Love scooped up the blocked kick, and Carlos Williams blocked a kick."

Mackovic sang the praises of Mike Bell who will have to step up this week:

Mackovic: "Clarence Farmer is our leading rusher, so not having him available impacts us a lot. But, Mike Bell is ready for this. He does a good job, and he knows what we're doing. He knows our blocking and pass protection, and he has a nice feel for the run game. Like anything else, I don't know if anyone should be counted on to play every down. We have to be able to spell him and rotate some other players in there. He is shifty in the open field when he gets the ball out there."

With Farmer out will there be added pressure on the passing game?:

Mackovic: "We all have to step it up. As well as Jason (Johnson) has played and as well as our receivers have run down the field, this is a time that they definitely are going to have to be front and center. That doesn't mean we are going to throw the ball on every down, but it means that they have to run good routes, catch the ball and make plays for us."

On true freshman punter Danny Baugher:

Mackovic: "We went with Danny based on everything that we have done. We felt that he was ready. He kicked his first punt in record time, and his numbers against North Texas were fair. We thought that Danny needed to get in there under fire and find out what is going on. There is a pretty good chance that he would punt this week."

On the rash of injuries to key players this week:

Mackovic: "Right now, we have to get our best football players on the field. I would tell the next guy in line that it's his turn to step up, and I would tell the guy who has been here a while that he has to shore it up. That's what a guy like Pat Howard did Saturday night. Pat Howard gave us more than we probably would have expected based upon the limited practice time. He had his knee scoped and was just back for his second week. He gave us more than what we might have reasonably expected under the circumstances. David Hinton stepped up, and Gary Love stepped up. For his first game, Sean Jones gave us a little more than we might have expected. We need more people stepping up this week."

 

 


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