In this context Arizona coach Mike Stoops may be the endangered species. The Wildcats, 1-2 this year, have lost their last seven games against FBS opponents.
Arizona started this season with five new offensive linemen, and they’ve struggled to protect Nick Foles. Stanford raided the Arizona backfield for five sacks in last Saturday night’s game, and they’ve given up 8 for the season, which is a lot in three games for a quick-striking Air Raid offense. Foles gets the ball out quickly, and he is adept at recognizing and exploiting the blitz.
Oregon’s defense, meanwhile, has just four sacks on the season, but two of those came in the Mo State game. Most encouraging sign for the defense? In spite of some panic over their progress, they are showing some, rallying to the ball against the Bears with nine total tackles for loss. They’re beginning to play with more aggression and stuff some plays. They’ll need that against Arizona.
Mike Stoops and co. have not run the ball well this year. Their leading rusher Keola Antolin has just 125 total yards, less than 42 a game. A senior now, the Ducks bottled up the James Rodgers-sized back in 2010 and 2009, but as a freshman in 2008 he scampered for 87 yards and four touchdowns on 20 carries in a wild 55-45 shootout.
The already potent Arizona offense got a boost this season when Dan Buckner, a transfer from Texas, finished his sit-out year and joined the number one offense. Buckner is another tall target. A 6-4, 220 he’s a load to cover, leading the team in receptions so far with 18 for 251 yards opposite longtime PAC-12 scourge Juron Criner. Criner is all stitched up after an appendectomy, so Foles will have his two principal targets at full strength.
Arizona is one of the toughest places in the conference to be the road team, particularly at night with a loud, vocal, enthusiastic and well-lubricated crowd, the 10,000-member student session acting like, well, wild animals with batteries to throw. It’s the Ducks second road game after two cushy ones at home. How will some of the freshmen and redshirt freshmen, now playing bigger roles in the rotation, react to the thoroughly hostile environment?
As always, the best way to quiet them is to jump out to a lead and control the tempo of the game, A fast start and a couple of big plays, combined with a three and out or two, would be just the script for this Mike Stoops death watch melodrama. Who will be the 4th week survivor, Stoops, or UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel?