Oregon Ducks defense face first test against Arizona Wildcats passing offense
After a tough season opener against now second ranked LSU, the Oregon Ducks have returned to their usual quick-paced offense and high scoring performances by Chip Kelly’s offense. Destroying Nevada and Missouri State has returned the Ducks to the top 10 and upped the confidence of the team. But the Ducks face their first real test today when they travel to Tuscon to face quarterback Nick Foles and the Arizona Wildcats.
The last time these two teams met in Tuscon, the Ducks were ranked No. 11 in the country, and the Wildcats were looking for an upset. With Foles and receiver Juron Criner leading the offense, Arizona scored 24 unanswered points to take the lead 24-14 in the fourth quarter. The Ducks tied the game back up with a touchdown run by quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and a field-goal kick that bounced in off the cross bar. Arizona regained the lead with a touchdown pass to Criner and Oregon failed to answer back, turning the ball back to Arizona. The fans decided that the Wildcats were going to upset the Ducks and began to rush the field. Oregon intercepted the ball and ended regulation with a touchdown and extra point to put the game into overtime. The Ducks and Wildcats traded touchdowns to force a second overtime. The stunned Arizona crowd was silenced with the game game-winning touchdown by Oregon in double overtime.
These two teams have record book of historic showdowns, and Arizona is capable of upsetting ranked teams, especially in home games. Arizona is ranked 5th in the nation in passing, averaging 364.0 yards per game. Nick Foles has already passed for over one thousand yards in 3 games, and Oregon will be tested in the air by Foles’ strong and accurate arm. The Wildcats also have top receiver Juron Criner, which means a test for the Oregon cornerbacks Anthony Gildon and Terrence Mitchell. It has not been made clear whether first-team preseason all-American Cliff Harris will play or not. After facing a suspension, Harris has worked his way late into the last two games. Chip Kelly mentioned in a press conference after the Missouri State game that Harris has not been on the receiving end of kicks and punts due to taped fingers that prevent him from catching the ball. The Ducks would certainly benefit from having Harris on special teams, and to help defend the dangerous Criner.
Oregon has regained its confidence on offense. Running backs LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and new addition De’Anthony Thomas have put Oregon at 8th in the country in rushing with an average of 281.0 yards per game. The Ducks are also ranked 4th in the nation with an average of 50.7 points scored per game. Oregon’s offense has performed outstandingly, but the defense will really have a test today having not faced a strong passing offense yet this season.
If the years leading up to today’s game are any indication, then it promises to be an exciting and tense matchup between the Oregon Ducks and Arizona Wildcats. If Oregon’s offense continues to play with a quick pace, and their defense can stifle Foles and Arizona’s passing game, Oregon should come out on top tonight.