The cool Saturday was clothed in dreary gray with uncharacteristically wet weather, and it only got drearier in Tuscan for the No. 5 Oregon Ducks. Although most in press row wondered aloud if Arizona had publicized the contest at all when the game kicked off, thousands of empty seats were quickly filled as news spread that the Wildcats were putting on a first quarter exhibition for their fans.
It was an emotional senior day as Wildcat fans said goodbye to their all-time leader in rushing yards and touchdowns RB Ka’Deem Carey in his final home game. He rewarded them with a historical afternoon (48 carries, 208 yards, 4 TDs) against an Oregon defense considered among the PAC-12’s top tier coming into the game. Carey said after the game, “Being raised here and born here, it means a lot. I put it on for this city. I can’t believe I took that many carries. I’m not the only one out there working, it is a together thing. When you walk into this building you see upsets on the wall. You see USC, you see Oregon from a couple years back. I can’t wait to see this game up there. It’s an honor to be mentioned (with Wildcat record holders) with those guys. It’s a blessing for me.”
Coming into the game, Arizona had lost two heartbreaking games at home in back to back weeks. Senior MLB Jake Fisher commented on today’s win, “We had lost two in a row, and that’s not acceptable. Three (games) that we had let get away. We were angry.” He felt the entire team chemistry was different today. “The offense was keeping us (the defense) off the field, and we were working in unison.”
Of the offensive strategy, head coach Rich Rodriguez spoke glowingly, “If we could keep getting first downs, we could keep our defense off the field . . . I didn’t know he (Carey) had 48 carries until after the game. I thought after that first quarter, I thought we would be alright. I felt control offensively, and that we were in good shape.” Coach Rodriguez believed the win was complete in all phases of play as well. ”We tackled really well against a team that’s explosive. We rallied to the ball. I thought the defensive staff had a good plan,” he continued, “We don’t have the biggest, most physical defense, but they are starting to grasp what we are doing and did well today.”
Quarterback B.J. Denker was an unheralded player out of high school, but he played like a blue chip star on a national stage. “This is a crazy win for our program, players, for our coaching staff, for our seniors. I tried to do my job every play, play within myself and within the system. This was redemption after the Washington State game.” Denker added, “When we put it all together, we dominated them in all three phases. The third downs and red zone efficiencies were the key.”
Duck fans will remember a premature celebration in Tuscon from a zealous fan base in a previous year. Down on the field midway through the third quarter, Arizona safety officials were already working with ESPN producers on “safe zones” for players and reporters if the students storm the field. At the time, it again seemed as somewhat premature. As the fourth quarter progressed, it became apparent that this win would be a four-quarter onslaught that would leave no doubt for fans from both sides. After the win, the Wildcat coach exuded, “This is the highest ranked team we’ve beaten since I’ve been here. They (Oregon) are a very good football team. To beat them at home on senior day, I thought that was really special. This is, without question, the best we’ve played all year.”