Arizona had been facing up-tempo spread offenses prior to its bye week, but Oregon State was a test for how physical and resilient the UA defense could be.
The verdict: The Wildcats held their opponent to under its season scoring average for the fourth straight week after limiting the Beavers to 24 points in Saturday night’s victory.
“Bye weeks ... gives you an opportunity to really focus in on a new, a really different style of play,” UA coach Jedd Fisch said. “Our defense had to respond to that, and to hold them to 10 points in the first half, two scores in the second half. I just thought all and all we put a really good physical defense against their offense.”
Arizona clicked on all cylinders in the fourth quarter against Oregon State and did what it needed to do to get the win over the No. 11 team.
“You really win championships when all three phases work together, and I thought that fourth quarter it kind of all clicked together,” Fisch said. “We were able to run ball, stop the run, put them in third and longs, get off the field on defense.”
In the opening drive of the past two games UA has given up touchdowns, but Johnny Nansen and the Arizona defense has been able to make adjustments and get the stops when they were needed.
“We were just telling them keep playing,” linebacker Jacob Manu said. “Trust the process. We need to start faster as we know but just be resilient.”
Arizona stayed resilient at the end of the first half when Oregon State tried a fake field-goal at the 16-yard line. That one stop in the red zone against the Beavers ended up being the difference in the 3-point win.
Arizona ranks third in the Pac-12 in opponents points percentage in the red zone (76.67%) and before the fake field-goal Oregon State was perfect inside the 20.
“I think we watch it every week,” Fisch said. “We watch how our defense comes up with big stops at the right time. And red zone defense has been a huge priority for us and keeping these guys out of the endzone. Making a big stop.”
Tacario Davis was tied for the most targeted defender in the game but he had multiple chances against Oregon State to turn them over. Davis still led Arizona with two passes broken up and now leads the Pac-12 in passes broken up (10).