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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Horrendous’ first half dooms Wildcats in Eugene

     Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli runs down field past the Arizona defense to score on a 66-yard run on the third play from scrimmage. Arizona rallied late, but was unable to overcome a large first half deficit, as the Wildcats fell to Oregon 55-45 at Autzen Stadium on Saturday night.
    Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli runs down field past the Arizona defense to score on a 66-yard run on the third play from scrimmage. Arizona rallied late, but was unable to overcome a large first half deficit, as the Wildcats fell to Oregon 55-45 at Autzen Stadium on Saturday night.

    EUGENE, Ore. – If there were a manual describing how to be successful when playing in Autzen Stadium, it wouldn’t advise falling 14 points behind in the first two minutes to Oregon.

    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 tone was set.

    “”Nobody was here. Nobody was awake yet,”” sophomore tight end Rob Gronkowski, who hauled in 12 passes for 143 yards (both career-highs) and a touchdown, said of Arizona’s abysmal first half. “”Nobody was playing hard or nothing. The offense was just alright and the defense were letting all these big plays, so overall the team was just horrendous in the first half.””

    In a Pacific 10 Conference game that could go a long way in terms of determining where both teams finish in the standings or even bowl positioning, the Wildcats (6-4, 4-3 Pac-10) sloppy start turned out to be too much to overcome despite a valiant effort, as Oregon (8-3, 6-2) escaped with a 55-45 win while scoring the most points on Arizona in head coach Mike Stoops’ tenure with the program.

    Arizona did little stop a powerful Oregon offensive attack – particularly in the first half – as the Ducks put up 411 total yards and 42 points, the most the Wildcats have allowed before halftime since LSU put up 38 in Baton Rouge in 2003.

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

    Despite brining 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 each on the ground and 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 an accurate 17-of-19 passes in addition to 87 rushing yards. In all, Masoli posted a total five touchdowns in the first half.

    “”It was so poor of execution I can’t even explain it,”” said UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops of the first half. “”That’s obviously my job, to get them to execute the defense, and it is quite obvious I didn’t do a great job with that.””

    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 ran in by Antolin – and the Wildcats got the ball back as they werew 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 4th-and-3 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 threw 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 to 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 game.

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

    “”Defensively, as a senior and a captain, we aren’t taking no 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.””

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