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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Horrendous’ 1st half dooms UA

    UA running back Keola Antolin (2) scores one of his four touchdowns against Oregon in Autzen Stadium on Saturday in Eugene, Ore. Despite a heralded second-half comeback, the Wildcats couldnt overcome the Ducks, losing 55-45.
    UA running back Keola Antolin (2) scores one of his four touchdowns against Oregon in Autzen Stadium on Saturday in Eugene, Ore. Despite a heralded second-half comeback, the Wildcats couldn’t overcome the Ducks, losing 55-45.

    EUGENE, Ore. – Arizona defensive coordinator Mark Stoops emerged from the Wildcats’ locker room for interviews with the media, leaned against the wall and shamefully put his head down.

    Having just seen Arizona lose 55-45 to Oregon in Autzen Stadium, Stoops was almost speechless when he was approached.

    “”I don’t know what to say,”” he said. “”I am very embarrassed by our performance. I don’t know if we have ever played that bad. I don’t think we played that bad in year one.””

    Pardon Stoops for being so blunt, but the coach felt his defense hit an all-time low with him at the helm of the unit since his arrival at Arizona.

    Arizona did little to stop a powerful Oregon offensive attack – particularly in the first half – as the Ducks put up 411 total yards and 45 points, the most the Wildcats have allowed before halftime since LSU put up 38 in Baton Rouge in 2003.

    And it happened so quickly.

    On Oregon’s third play from scrimmage, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli kept the ball on an option play and darted down the Ducks’ sideline for a 66-yard score. On Arizona’s third play of the ensuing possession, Wildcat quarterback Willie Tuitama was picked off by Oregon’s Patrick Chung, who proceeded to take the ball back 31 yards for the touchdown.

    The Wildcats were looking at a 14-point deficit and only 1:32 had rolled off the game clock.

    “”The crazy thing is, as a defensive coordinator you give up 45 points in the first half, I don’t know if I would do one thing different,”” Stoops said. “”I kicked myself every game about calls, plays – every game. (You) always can do better and (feel like what you did was) not good enough or feel like you can do better. I don’t know if I’d do one thing different, and that’s what’s crazy.

    “”It was so poor of execution, I can’t even explain it, and that’s obviously my job,”” Stoops added, “”to get them to execute the defense, and it is quite obvious I didn’t do a good job with that.””

    In a Pacific 10 Conference game that could go a long way in terms of determining where both teams finish in the standings and with bowl positioning, the Wildcats’ (6-4, 4-3 Pac-10) sloppy start turned out to be too much to overcome, despite a valiant effort. Arizona gave up the most points any team under head coach Mike Stoops has allowed since he took over the program in 2004.

    “”Nobody was here. Nobody was awake yet,”” said sophomore tight end Rob Gronkowski, who hauled in 12 passes for 143 yards -ÿboth career-highsÿ- and a touchdown. “”Nobody was playing hard or nothing. The offense was just all right and the defense were letting all these big plays, so overall the team was just horrendous in the first half.””

    The Wildcats looked as if they were going to claw themselves back into the game, however, after falling behind by two touchdowns early, scoring 10 unanswered points, highlighted by a 2-yard rushing touchdown by Keola Antolin.

    Despite bringing themselves within four points with two minutes left in the third quarter, Masoli made sure his Ducks stayed in complete control of the game.

    Aside from a 37-yard touchdown reception by Chris Gronkowski in the middle of Oregon’s scoring barrage, Masoli racked up four more touchdowns, two on the ground and two through the air.

    Masoli connected with wideout Terence Scott for a 44-yard touchdown pass, added two rushing scores of five and six yards, respectively, and capped off the first-half touchdown bonanza with a 65-yard touchdown toss to Jeff Maehl to extend the lead to 42-17.

    At the half, Masoli had already posted 274 passing yards off of 17-of-19 passing, in addition to 87 rushing yards. In all, Masoli posted a total five touchdowns in the first half.

    “”It was definitely a lack of focus,”” said UA linebacker Ronnie Palmer. “”People weren’t being accountable, and that’s big. (Playing against) an option team, it is all about responsibilities and about attacking instead of sitting back waiting, and we definitely hurt ourselves in the worst kind of way.””

    As far out of reach as the game may have seemed when the Wildcats strolled into the locker room at halftime, Arizona had a possession late in the fourth quarter that could have given the team the lead if it would have scored a touchdown.

    Arizona scored four unanswered touchdowns in the second half – three of which were run in by Antolin – and the Wildcats got the ball back as they were down by three points with just less than five minutes remaining in the game.

    While it looked like Arizona could not be stopped due to its domination on offense during that barrage of scoring, the Wildcats were faced with a fourth-and-two play, but were unsuccessful in the attempt to pick up the first down.

    The Wildcats ran a swing pass, which proved to be the right decision given that Antolin was wide open, but the reserve halfback let the ball slip through his fingertips and fall to the ground.

    “”People said nobody was there. I don’t know how many yards I would have (gotten), but people said I was open,”” Antolin said of the drop. “”I just took my eyes off of it. I got too anxious to run it, but that’s what happened.””

    On the ensuing possession, Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount broke through the line and rushed 40 yards with 3:38 left on the clock for a touchdown to seal the game.

    Despite surpassing the Ducks in total yardage (527-504), first downs (30-18) and time of possession (41:46-18:14), Arizona’s three turnovers, which led to a large early deficit, were too much to overcome.

    Tuitama finished the night 29-for-45 for 328 yards and two touchdowns, Antolin carried the ball 20 times for 87 yards and four touchdowns, and Chris Gronkowski, Rob’s older brother, had three receptions for 84 yards and a score.

    Safety Nate Ness is already thinking about next week’s date with Oregon State in Tucson, for which practice begins this week.

    “”Defensively, as a senior and a captain, we aren’t taking (any) crap,”” Ness said. “”There will be no playing next week.

    “”This here against Oregon State is a must win, and I am going to repeat, a must-win game,”” Ness added.

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