The Arizona Wildcats return to Tucson looking to end a two-game losing streak. The only problem: they are hosting the 19th-ranked Oregon Ducks, one of the top teams in the Pac-12.
Let’s get to know the Ducks before Saturday’s game.
First Look at Oregon
2018 Record: 5-2 (2-2 Pac-12)
- Week 4 loss vs. No. 7 Stanford (38-31)
- Week 5 win at No. 24 Cal (42-24)
- Week 7 win vs. No. 7 Washington (30-27 OT)
- Week 8 loss at No. 25 Washington State (34-20)
Key Offensive Players: Justin Herbert (QB), CJ Verdell (RB), Dillon Mitchell (WR), Jake Hanson (Center)
Key Defensive Players: Troy Dye (LB), Kaulana Apelu (LB), Thomas Graham Jr. (CB), Ugochukwu Amadi (S)
First-year head coach Mario Cristobal has done a tremendous job taking over for Willie Taggart. The Ducks rank 29th in the country in total offense with 460.7 yards per game, but 52nd in total defense by allowing 367.3 yards per game.
Junior quarterback Justin Herbert has lived up to all of the preseason hype. He enters this matchup with 1,883 passing yards while completing 61.8 percent of his passes and holds an 18:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Prior to last weekend’s game in Pullman, this Oregon offense was averaging 43 points per game and had no trouble moving the ball. Then came the Washington State contest.
The Ducks were held to a season-low 20 points and 328 total yards of offense. They were also shut out in the first half for the first time this season.
Key skill position players like running back CJ Verdell and wide receiver Dillon Mitchell were held to a combined 127 yards and no touchdowns.
Coming into the game, Verdall had recorded 531 rushing yards with four touchdowns. He also had 9 receptions for 112 yards. Mitchell was, and still is, the team’s leading receiver but entered the game with 35 receptions for 561 yards and three touchdowns.
Wide receiver (and brother of UA linebacker Colin Schooler) Brenden Schooler was responsible for the biggest Oregon offense play of the game as he recorded a 28-yard reception.
Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt still has the Ducks firing on all cylinders. They allowed 400 yards and 34 points against the Cougars, but still created two takeaways.
Linebackers Troy Dye and Kaulana Apelu lead the team in tackles with 58 and 51, respectively. Them plus outside linebacker Justin Hollins will make it very difficult on Arizona’s running game.
In the secondary, two key names to know are cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. and safety Ugo Amadi. Graham is terrific against the pass where he has recorded six pass breakups. He’s also unafraid to make a tackle in the open field as 19 of his 23 tackles are solo.
Amadi is currently riding a 45 games played streak and entered the season as one of the key secondary players in the conference. He has recorded 38 tackles, 1.5 sacks, three interceptions (two were returned for touchdowns) and six pass breakups. He can do it all.
The Washington State game provides a dash of hope for the Wildcats in the 2018 Schooler Bowl. However, just as last week, the outcome of this game is likely dependent upon Tate’s availability.
Rhett Rodriguez did a great job keeping UA in the game. The running game was alive and well, but the defense struggled on key positions. The three turnovers didn’t help, either.
If Arizona is going to win this game, regardless of Tate’s availability, they’re going to have to play mistake free. On the flip side, the defense will need to create takeaways and find ways to put pressure on Herbert.
If he has time, he will pick UA’s thin secondary apart.