Exactly a decade ago to date, Oregon traveled to Tucson, Arizona to take on the Arizona Wildcats. Holding an advantage record 14-9 overall against Arizona, Oregon was only 5-8 in Tucson; many (including ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit) were predicting an upset by Arizona. Oregon would go on to prove Herbstreit dead wrong.
On a warm Arizona Desert evening, the Ducks came out fired up and ready to go. From the start, Quarterback Joey Harrington and company came out firing on all cylinders. Oregon, at its own 17 wasted no time moving the ball. On the second play from scrimmage, Maurice Morris picked up where he left off the previous week (career best 175 yards rushing against Utah State) by carrying the ball 25 yards. Two amazing plays then got Oregon into Arizona territory, as Samie Parker had a terrific first down catch around midfield, followed by a screen pass to Morris who broke two tackles and made a brilliant second-effort move to make it to the Arizona 30. A fourth and one was converted on an option play by Onterrio Smith. Samie Parker was open at the five yard line and appeared to have Oregon in the red zone, but Parker was hit, causing the ball to pop up and be intercepted by Arizona. Oregon’s defense, however, would not allow anything by the Arizona offense, immediately forcing a punt. Harrington and company went right back to business, with Harrington hitting Parker at mid-field for an amazing over-the-shoulder catch to atone for his previous drive miscue. Parker had another great catch on the drive at the Oregon 15 to get the Ducks even closer. Another great Morris run got Oregon a 1st and Goal. Two plays later, Harrington rolled right, having to choose between risking a run in against defenders or throwing. Harrington opted to throw, and would find a wide-open George Wrighster for his first touchdown as a Duck. 7-0, Oregon.
On the ensuing kickoff, Arizona would fumble it away at the Oregon 15 to give Oregon a terrific opportunity for another strike. Oregon would be penalized ten yards back, but Parker came through for Oregon again, catching another terrific strike at the two yard-line to set up a score. Three plays later, Harrington bolted in from the one. 14-0, Oregon. The Ducks appeared to be in full control of the game from there, when Arizona put together a drive of their own. Fueled by a long catch by all Pac-10 receiver Bobby Wade, Arizona drove the length of the field in barely two minutes to pull within seven, capped by a 44 yard touchdown pass on a blown coverage. 14-7, Oregon, as would remain the score to end the first quarter.
Oregon was then forced to punt after an unsuccessful drive, fortunate that a potential pick-six from Harrington straight to a defender was dropped. Arizona got right back in the game, as a blown tackle enabled runningback Clarence Farmer to run all the way from his own ten to the Oregon ten. Only two plays later, another blown coverage gave Arizona a wide open touchdown catch to even the score, 14-14.
Arizona appeared to be in the game at that point, but Oregon’s next drive would be the beginning of a major offensive explosion to prove all naysayers wrong. Arizona made the big mistake of an onside kick, as the Arizona player foolishly caught it before it went ten yards to give Oregon the ball. With a short field to play with, Oregon wasted little time, punching it in in barely two minutes as Harrington would move the ball on perfect strikes to Wrighster and Josh Line, capped by his second touchdown run of the night to reclaim the lead. 21-14, Oregon.
Arizona drove to midfield, but was unable to do anything further. The legendary Rashad Bauman had two terrific pass breakups, and a third down fell incomplete; forcing a field goal attempt. The kick failed, giving Oregon the ball back. Again, Oregon took full advantage of its good field position. Oregon’s high-flying offense drove downfield into Arizona territory. Harrington would again find Samie Parker, this time going all the way outracing his defenders for the 38 yard touchdown catch. 28-14, Oregon.
Arizona then appeared to go three-and-out, when Rashad Bauman’s terrific non-contact pass breakup was called a very controversial pass-interference call, which even Coach Mike Bellotti was upset about and disputing to the officials. However, Arizona could do nothing with their next set of downs, being forced to punt. Oregon would take the ball with under four minutes to play, when Harrington and company pulled together to put more points on the board for a larger half-time cushion. Samie Parker, already having an outstanding game, came through big again for Oregon, catching a 30+ yard strike from Harrington at the Arizona 40 to give Oregon the momentum. Harrington then found the legendary Keenan Howry for his first big catch of the night to get the Ducks into the redzone at the 17. The very next play, Harrington continued his streak, throwing a perfect strike to an open Tight End Justin Peelle in the end zone for the score. Oregon would end the first half scoring a touchdown on five of its seven possessions. 35-14, Oregon would be the score heading into halftime (as Oregon’s defense prevented anything from Arizona in their final minute of possession.)
The third quarter would belong to Oregon. In the second half, Arizona took the opening kickoff and began to drive down field. Several big plays got Arizona barely into Oregon territory, and the Wildcats appeared ready to make a run at a second half comeback. Oregon, however, was not about to allow such a comeback, as the defense forced a third down following a great backfield stuff by Keith Lewis. On third down, a terrific interception was made by middle linebacker David Moretti, despite Moretti’s arm cast.
As Oregon took over, they immediately took full advantage of their first drive of the second half. Two huge Morris runs got Oregon into the red zone, and Morris would make a near-touchdown run from 17 yards out and down to the one; finishing the job on the very next play to score and surpass 100 yards on the night. In only seven plays, Oregon would go 57 yards in less than two minutes for their fourth consecutive touchdown drive. 42-14, Oregon.
Arizona would take the kickoff and attempt another drive, when another interception would be thrown to a linebacker to give Oregon the ball back. Oregon’s own Wes Mallard would make a terrific interception and return to the Arizona 23 to give Oregon another shot. Onterrio Smith would get the job done by getting the ball to the one yard line in three plays, and punching it in from there to give Oregon a comfortable 35-point lead. 49-14, Oregon.
Arizona had no luck yet again. After making it to midfield, they faced a third and long. Native Oregonian Defensive End Zack Freiter came through to make a terrific QB sack and force another punt by Arizona. Oregon was unable to do anything and forced to punt for the first time in the second half. However, Arizona would soon fumble the ball deep in their own territory to give the Ducks yet another scoring opportunity on a short field. Ed Wangler came up with the recovery on Oregon’s fourth takeaway. Several plays later, Smith came through again for Oregon, spinning away twice from would-be tacklers, and getting Oregon a 1st and Goal. Harrington would finish the job two plays later for his third touchdown of the night, to push Oregon over the 50-point mark for the first time all year, as well as Oregon’s most points ever against Arizona. 56-14, Oregon; to end the third quarter.
Arizona, completely deflated, tried to open the fourth quarter with a spark. Tailback Clarence Farmer carried Arizona to midfield, but another turnover would give it right back to Oregon. Wes Mallard came through for Oregon yet again, as he would recover a fumble for his second consecutive take-away. On Oregon’s very first offensive play, Onterrio Smith would come through big for the Ducks again, running it all the way from his own 38 to the Arizona five yard line and set up Oregon’s ninth touchdown of the evening. Smith would finish the job only two plays later, running it in from five yards out for his second score of the night. 63-14, Oregon.
It wasn’t until Oregon’s starters had been pulled when Arizona was able to find their way onto the scoreboard again. Arizona managed two scores on two runs of 25 yards in the final ten minutes of “mop-up duties,” but it wasn’t for anything other than statistical purposes at that point. Oregon would run the clock out on their final possession, and end the game tying their record for most points ever against a conference opponent, and setting a record for the most points in a road game.
Coincidentally enough, the 63-28 score was the same as the record set three years earlier against Stanford for the most points Oregon scored ever against a Pac-10 opponent. Oregon’s dominant offense would finish the night with over 600 total yards. Harrington would surpass the legendary Troy Aikman at 8th on the Pac-10 all-time quarterbacks yards passing list. Harrington’s 279 yards, three touchdown passes and three TD runs night earned him MVP of the game; but the spotlight would need to be shared with Samie Parker for his six catches for 160 yards, averaging 26 yards-per-catch; as well as Maurice Morris for his 21 carries for 110 yards; and the dominant defense for forcing five Wildcat turnovers. Final Score: Oregon 63, Arizona 28.