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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona football vs. No. 11 Oregon State preview: Can the Wildcats secure a second straight ranked win?

Jacob+Manu+%285%29+reaches+the+ball+on+Oct.+28+at+Arizona+Stadium.+The+football+team+upset+Oregon+State+27-24.
Kohichiro Yamada
Jacob Manu (5) reaches the ball on Oct. 28 at Arizona Stadium. The football team upset Oregon State 27-24.

The Arizona football team has enjoyed a bye week coming off its best performance of the season against then-No. 19 Washington State University, demolishing the Cougars 44-6. This break was crucial, considering the upcoming challenge. The Wildcats will host No. 11 Oregon State University in Tucson on Saturday, Oct. 28, with kickoff at 7:30 p.m.

Arizona will be looking to pick up right where it left off, with no word yet on who will be the Wildcats’ signal-caller heading into this week’s game. It’s expected that the sophomore Noah Fifita will likely be getting the start, and with the way he’s played so far, that should come with little surprise. 

History

Arizona holds an advantage over the Beavers in the all-time series with a record of 24-16-1, including a 13-7 record at home and an 11-9-1 record on the road. The Wildcats have won three of the last five matchups but faced a defeat in the most recent contest, falling 56-38 on Nov. 2, 2019, in Tucson.

Arizona‘s most recent victory in the series was a convincing 35-14 win in Corvallis, Oregon, on Sept. 22, 2018. The Wildcats’ last win in Tucson dates back to Nov. 11, 2017, when they defeated the Beavers in a 49-28 beatdown. Notably, Arizona also boasts the longest win streak in this series, spanning 12 games from 1971 to 1988.

In the most recent meeting, Arizona made a significant change by ousting defensive coordinator Marcel Yates the week prior and replacing him with former NFL assistant coach and Arizona alum Chuck Cecil. However, this transition had little impact on their defensive performance. Former Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton played lights-out, completing 20 of 26 of his passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Jermar Jefferson led the ground attack with three scores, and wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins had an impressive seven catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns. The Beavers’ offense effectively exploited Arizona‘s defense, resulting in their dominant win. 

For the Wildcats, former Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate Jr. started at signal-caller, going just 7-for-12 for 109 yards. Under Cecil, Arizona‘s defense had a challenging first half, allowing 385 yards and trailing 35-19 by halftime. After a lackluster offensive display, Arizona made a quarterback switch, as Tate went three-and-out on the first series after intermission. Grant Gunnell stepped in and led all five UA touchdown drives, completing 19 of 29 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns, an impressive showing despite coming up short in the end.  

Oregon State’s season

Oregon State, like three other teams in the conference, is coming off a bye week and has encountered only a single setback this season. That lone defeat occurred in Week 4, when the No. 14 Beavers narrowly fell to then-No. 21 Washington State University 38-35. However, apart from this minor stumble, the Beavers have been in the driver’s seat for most of their games, coming out on top in the end.  

Notable wins for Oregon State include victories over the then-No. 10 University of Utah in Week 5 and then-No. 18 UCLA just two weeks later. Their most recent win holds a special distinction, as it secured their place as the third team in the Pac-12 to attain bowl eligibility, accomplishing this feat in record time within their program’s history.

A closer examination of the statistics reveals the Beavers‘ exceptional performance in the red zone. They stand among only three teams nationwide to maintain a perfect record in the red zone this season, converting all 25 of their opportunities. This offensive efficiency has significantly contributed to their overall success. Furthermore, their standout tight end, Jack Velling, leads the nation among tight ends with an impressive seven receiving touchdowns. One more touchdown catch will see Velling break the Oregon State tight end receiving touchdown record.

It’s also evident that Oregon State, under the leadership of head coach Jonathan Smith, has experienced a resurgence in recent years. With 23 victories since 2021, they have achieved their most wins over a three-year span since 2007-09. Smith‘s leadership and influence have been particularly pronounced, leading Oregon State to their first 6-1 start since 2013

Signal caller DJ Uiagalelei has delivered an exceptional season thus far. During the bye week, he was named to the Manning Award and Maxwell Award watch lists. Uiagalelei has amassed 1,573 passing yards and 15 touchdowns in the first seven games of the season. Additionally, his passing yardage this season would have led the Beavers last season, and his 15 touchdown passes are just one short of the team’s total in 2022. His presence on the field and his ability to lead the offense have been instrumental in the Beavers’ impressive display this season.

Wildcats to watch

If Arizona is going to win this game, it’s going to heavily depend on the defense continuing to play at a high level, as they have been doing all season. Particularly when facing the Oregon State offense, the secondary unit must excel in their coverage assignments and, even more crucially, in their tackling.

Ephesians Prysock and Treydan Stukes lead the cornerback group. Prysock, coming off his best game of the season two weeks ago against Washington State, registered seven total tackles (six solo) and an interception, which was the first for Arizona’s defense this season.

Opposite him, Stukes has also been consistently reliable. He boasts 25 total tackles (14 solo) on the season, ranking fifth among all defensive players for Arizona. Although he slowed down a bit last week with only two total tackles, Stukes can be expected to return to form after a week off

Safety Dalton Johnson helps anchor the entire defensive backfield. Johnson has accumulated 38 total tackles and 21 solo tackles, which are both the second-best among all Arizona defenders. He is one of the best tacklers on this defense, and has showcased his nose for the ball with his team-leading three forced fumbles. His performance, especially, needs to be at its best in this week’s matchup if Arizona wants to move closer towards bowl eligibility.


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