After a bye week this last weekend and in the midst of four straight losses, the Arizona Wildcats (4-5, 2-4) will travel to Eugene this weekend for a road game against the No. 6 Oregon Ducks (8-1, 6-0).
The Cats enter the matchup as massive underdogs, thanks to that four-game losing streak, and are just two weeks from removed from both the firing of former defensive coordinator Marcel Yates and the embarrassing 56-38 blowout loss to Oregon State on homecoming.
The UA now needs to win two its last three games just to reach bowl eligibility.
Those games come against No. 8 Utah, at ASU, and of course this week’s matchup with the Ducks, who Arizona did defeat last season and whom they’ve have had plenty of success against in the past.
The last four times a ranked Oregon team has played an unranked Arizona team, the Cats have come out with the victory.
We caught up with several Wildcats before this weekend’s clash and discussed what they’ve seen from UO, playing in such a tough environment, the team’s overall mood during the losing streak, and more.
Here’s the best of what was said:
Arizona safety Tristan Cooper on what makes the Ducks’ quarterback Justin Herbert so effective: “I mean, experience. Obviously he came back and he wants to prove a point. He’s a great quarterback and hopefully we get some pressure on him and we can lock up the receivers and stop the run game. We’ll see how it goes.”
Cooper on what the mood’s been like during the losing streak: “All the coaches are kind of on edge. Nobody likes losing so everybody’s very intense, even the players. We walk in the locker room and it’s like, ‘dang like we’re tired of being lectured’ but it’s just like we got to step our game up. Everybody’s been coming in with a chip on their shoulder and that’s how it’s always going to be if we’re losing games.”
Cooper on potentially spoiling Oregon’s playoff chances: “We do want to spoil their season. It would kind of suck because I’d like to see a Pac-12 team in the playoffs, but at the end of the day I’m not trying to lose and it would be interesting if we made some history and beat the No. 6 team in the country. So yeah, we’re trying to do some damage.”
Arizona offensive lineman Jon Jacobs on what he’s seen from Oregon’s defensive line: “They’re big in the middle, especially with big 34 (Jordon Scott). Their ends are nice too, especially (Kayvon) Thibodeaux. He’s a true freshman coming out of Oaks Christian and he seemed really nice as far as his length and his ability to get his hands on people. They are going to be fast. I know their linebackers of course are really good, especially with those interceptions they’ve had recently. Their secondary’s good too and they’ve stepped up from what they were last year defensively.”
Arizona wide receiver Brian Casteel on what he’s seen from Oregon’s secondary on film: “I’ve seen that they’re a disciplined team, a disciplined group. They’ve created, I think, the most turnovers in the Pac-12. I know a lot of them too, like we played against each other in high school, and they’re very physical. They’re a good team.”
Casteel on being a major underdog against the Ducks: “Honestly that’s kind of how it’s been for me my whole life. I embrace being an underdog. I grew up with guys that all seemed like they were going D1 since we started playing and I kind of came along as we got older. They always got the spotlight over me.”
Casteel on preparing to play in an atmosphere like Autzen Stadium: “We’ve had loud music playing at practice for that particular reason. We know it’s going to be loud and a good crowd. It’s my second time going there so I know it’s going to be rocking.”
Casteel on what he’d say to people who think Arizona will be blown out this weekend: “I’d just tell them just to keep the same energy when the game’s over. And just don’t try to hop on the bandwagon.”
Arizona offensive lineman Steven Bailey on playing a team like Oregon on the road: “I think it’s going to be a challenge for us and I know that we’re all excited for it. I don’t think too many people think that we’re going to go up there and mess with those guys but within this building we know we have a great opportunity and a great shot at proving everybody wrong.”
Arizona running back Gary Brightwell on what he’s seen from the Ducks’ defense: “They’re pretty aggressive honestly, their linebackers flow to the ball and they hardly take any plays off.”
Brightwell on the effect the losing streak has had on the team: “It’s felt like our backs against the wall honestly, and like all we’ve really got is our brothers. It’s only brought us closer.”
Brightwell on potentially ending Oregon’s chances of making the college football playoff: “We’d love to ruin their dreams. It’s basically practice hard win easy. So if we go hard now we got a real chance to end their dream.”
Brightwell on the atmosphere at Autzen Stadium: “Honestly, I don’t even care.”
Arizona defensive lineman Myles Tapusoa: “Oregon, they’re pretty good. They’re ranked. They have a good offensive line. They’re good all over. But as far as me and my brothers, I feel like stepping up to that challenge, we can do it. We’re ready. We’re the type of people we’re not going to run for competition.
Arizona wide receiver Stanley Berryhill III on the possibility of rainy weather in Oregon: “I mean, I practice with no gloves, just in case it rains up there, you want to wear no gloves. That’s really all I do. As a team, I mean, we haven’t done that much but we used to wet the balls before practice and catch the balls while they’re wet.”
Berryhill on if the team has done anything different to prepare for the noise at Autzen Stadium: “No, we haven’t put anything in crazy for the noise. We just do what we’re doing. We execute our plays. We don’t do anything special for any team.”