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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Cats bowl-eligible after beating Ducks

    UA head coach Mike Stoops gets water dumped on him by cornerbak Wilrey Fontenot (3) during the waning seconds of the fourth quarter of Arizonas game 37-10 upset win at Oregon Saturday at Autzen Stadium. The Wildcats became bowl-eligible for the first time since 1998 with the win.
    UA head coach Mike Stoops gets water dumped on him by cornerbak Wilrey Fontenot (3) during the waning seconds of the fourth quarter of Arizona’s game 37-10 upset win at Oregon Saturday at Autzen Stadium. The Wildcats became bowl-eligible for the first time since 1998 with the win.

    EUGENE, Ore. – This is a different Arizona football team, indeed.

    The Wildcats’ 37-10 victory at Oregon (7-4, 4-4 Pacific 10 Conference) on Saturday, which made Arizona (6-5, 4-4) eligible for the postseason for the first time since 1998, came through power running and a defense that punished the Ducks for every one of the numerous mistakes they made.

    The Wildcats had been on the receiving end of such treatment three weeks ago, coming off a listless 17-10 home loss to Oregon State.

    “”I think it really has a lot to do with maturity – and staying focused, you know?”” said junior running back Chris Henry, who rushed for a career-high 191 yards on 29 carries against the Ducks. “”We have a goal, and it’s right in front of us, we can see it, we can taste it. We just grabbed for it (Saturday), and we got it.””

    Arizona scored a pair of upsets over national top-25 teams, then-No. 25 Washington State and then-No. 8 California the last two weeks, but getting to .500 seemed unlikely to happen at Autzen Stadium, where the Wildcats hadn’t won in six meetings dating back to 1986.

    That streak, as well as Oregon’s run of seven straight victories overall in the teams’ series, got chopped to bits beneath the churning cleats of Henry, who more than doubled his previous single-game yardage record, 94, set against the Cougars.

    His emergence over the last three weeks has helped quarterback Willie Tuitama (8-of-9, 120 yards, two touchdowns Saturday) work his way back into a rhythm after suffering two concussions earlier this season.

    With the run and pass working in tandem, the Wildcats’ scoring output has soared.

    Arizona’s 37 points Saturday was its most since a 52-14 victory over UCLA on Nov. 5, 2005.

    The Wildcats are averaging 29.3 points in their last three contests, compared to 12.1 in the eight games before, ending with the Oct. 21 loss to the Beavers.

    Henry reclaimed the starting job from junior walk-on Chris Jennings in that contest and has averaged 30 carries, 114 yards and two rushing touchdowns in his last three outings.

    “”It feels really good, but it feels even better just to win,”” Henry said. “”Our offensive line, if they wouldn’t have blocked, I wouldn’t have been able to run, and they were blocking their tails off (Saturday).””

    On the other side of the ball, Arizona held yet another Pac-10 attack in check.

    The Wildcats, who entered Saturday third in the conference in points allowed with 19.4 per game, held Oregon to less than a third of its season scoring average (33.4).

    They intercepted four passes and got 10 points off two Duck fumbles on punt returns.

    Arizona picked off Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon three times in Wildcat territory, including two by safety Michael Klyce, who made his first career start in place of injured starter Michael Johnson.

    “”Our kids are preparing better, they’re learning better,”” said UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. “”They understand to listen to all the finer points, all the little details that makes a difference between winning and losing and all the things that make a difference between being a champion or not.””

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