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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA goes Duck hunting

    Fans climb onto the goalposts after the Wildcats 34-24 upset of No. 2 Oregon last night at Arizona Stadium. It was the second time this year and the second game in a row that students have rushed the field.
    Fans climb onto the goalposts after the Wildcats’ 34-24 upset of No. 2 Oregon last night at Arizona Stadium. It was the second time this year and the second game in a row that students have rushed the field.

    In its biggest spotlight of the century, the Arizona football team pulled off one of the most monumental upsets in the history of the program last night on national television, knocking off No. 2 Oregon 34-24, to pull one win away from being bowl-eligible for the second consecutive season.

    On ESPN’s “”Thursday Night Football,”” the Wildcats came out and scored 31 points in the first half, completely dominating the Ducks, who going into the game had high hopes of reaching the Bowl Championship Series title game.

    Now those hopes have gone to waste.

    The only other win in school history that might be able to top last night’s came back in 1993, when the Wildcats upset No. 1 Washington on Homecoming.

    UA head coach Mike Stoops’ record now stands at 5-1 in November against teams ranked in The Associated Press’ Top 25. For the fourth consecutive season, the Wildcats have damaged an opponent’s fate of reaching a more prominent bowl game in November, pulling off colossal home upsets.

    “”November’s been good to us against ranked teams,”” Stoops said. “”We had to earn it down the stretch and came through in the last five minutes when we really needed it.””

    In the grander scheme of things, Arizona has now won three consecutive games to round out a record that now stands at 5-6 overall and 4-4 in the Pacific 10 Conference, a number that seemed like an inconceivable one to reach three games ago when the Wildcats had just lost to Pac-10 cellar dweller Stanford, 21-20.

    Arizona’s hopes of pulling a major upset increased exponentially when Heisman hopeful Dennis Dixon was forced to leave the game for good in the first quarter after re-injuring his right knee.

    The game proved just how valuable Dixon was all season to the Ducks, who became the fifth team this season to lose when at the No. 2 spot in the polls.

    The Wildcats lucked out and saw Brady Leaf – the younger brother of one of the biggest busts in NFL history, Ryan Leaf – enter the game. The Ducks were never able to rebound offensively.

    In the first 19 plays of the game with Dixon, the Ducks accumulated 183 yards, averaging 9.6 yards per play, and had 11 points in the first 10 minutes of the game. Leaf was able to lead the Ducks, a team that came in averaging 42.8 points per game, to only 13 points in three-plus quarters.

    As the clock ticked down on Leaf – who suffered a sprained ankle – in the fourth quarter and he was unable to mount a comeback, brother Ryan stood on the sidelines cursing himself, burying his face in his hands.

    Antoine Cason, Arizona’s star senior cornerback who was playing the final game of his career at Arizona Stadium, had a monster game, scoring two touchdowns, one on a 42-yard interception return and another on a 56-yard punt return.

    “”When I started running, I saw about six or seven blue jerseys,”” said Cason. “”I just kept running, Forrest Gump style.””

    The Wildcats had a 31-14 lead heading into halftime, which eventually dwindled down to seven-point lead with eight minutes to play.

    Arizona only had 194 yards of total offense at halftime compared to Oregon’s 290. The Ducks also owned the possession time by nearly nine minutes, but the Wildcats took advantage of seemingly every big play opportunity, capitalizing on two Duck penalties that paved the way for a 45-yard touchdown pass to receiver Mike Thomas.

    From the outset of the game, it appeared the Ducks had the game on lock on the first drive of the game. On fourth-and-three, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti opted to go for it, and Dixon did a fake handoff and ran the ball 39 yards to the end zone. Then, on a bizarre play call, Bellotti chose to go for a successful two-point conversion, making the score 8-0.

    The game-changing play happened in the first quarter when the Ducks had first-and-goal on the 4-yard line and Arizona safety Nate Ness intercepted a pass in the end zone and returned it to the 45-yard line.

    “”It was just a heads up play for me,”” Ness said. “”It was big because the momentum changed. That momentum continued to stay with us throughout the game.

    Had Oregon scored, it would have gone up by as much as 15 points just five minutes into the game. The Wildcats capitalized on the turnover and completely shifted the momentum and scored on a 34-yard pass to Thomas just over a minute later, making the score 8-7.

    “”It all comes down to preparing to win,”” Cason said. “”That’s why we have to come out with the mindset that we’re gonna play hard and practice hard and keep coming on like we’ve come these past couple weeks.””

    Late hits

    Tuitama set the single-season passing record at Arizona to start the second half with his pass to Terrell Turner. …Thomas’ two touchdowns gave him 11 on the year, tying the single-season record for an Arizona receiver. …Grigsby’s 53 yards put him first all-time on Arizona’s list for yards by a true freshman in a single season. …The attendance for the game was 50,387, about 8,000 shy of a sellout, but the Zona Zoo section was completely full and no one left as a large portion rushed the field. …The Ducks had won seven in a row against the Wildcats before they went into Oregon last season and won 37-10. …The Ducks have 10 turnovers in the last two games against Arizona.

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