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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona Wildcats brace for quack attack

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Michael Arellano
Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas tip-toes along the sidelines as he attempts to stay inbounds a few yards short of the touchdown. Thomas was ruled out short of the end zone. The No. 2 Oregon Ducks face the University of Virginia Cavaliers at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia on September 7, 2013. (Michael Arellano/Emerald)

Arizona will host one of the nation’s most dangerous offenses in No. 5 Oregon this Saturday.

Inside the Ducks’ pretty uniforms is an army of explosive weapons on offense who are capable of outrunning any Arizona defender for an easy touchdown. But most notable are the three who are currently, or soon will be, Heisman candidates.

“We can’t play poorly and win, we showed that last week,” said Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez. “Do we have to play perfect? No, but we have to have some things go right and they have to help us, which can happen.”

The commander-in-chief of Oregon’s offense is redshirt sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota. The early Heisman candidate has a passing efficiency of 176.2, the sixth highest in the country. Mariota has thrown for 2,819 yards and 25 touchdowns this season and has yet to throw an interception.

Mariota’s skills don’t end there. One of the country’s best dual-threat quarterbacks, Mariota also has nine rushing touchdowns this season and averages 7.2 yards per rush.

“[Mariota] is as dangerous, if not more dangerous than any quarterback in the nation when he runs the ball,” said Arizona senior linebacker Jack Fischer.

Mariota has been dealing with a knee injury that could keep him from running all over the field Saturday. In fact, in the Ducks’ previous two games, the Hawaii native has rushed for negative yards.

“What that means is [Oregon] is more likely to switch up their game plan,” Fischer said.

Stanford, the only team to beat Oregon this season, contained Mariota and his offense by bringing pressure with its linebackers and not letting the Ducks run around tackles.

“The key to tackling someone in space is getting help from your teammates and taking proper angles,” said Arizona freshman linebacker Derrick Turituri.

One of the key reasons Mariota has been successful is the athletes that he has behind and around him.

Junior De’Anthony Thomas can be one of the most exciting athletes when he has the ball in the open field.

“He’s scary fast,” Turituri said.

Thomas, a 5-foot-9 running back, missed four games earlier this season with an ankle injury that prevented him from stealing more headlines, but he returned on Oct 26.

“[Thomas] looks like himself,” Rodriguez said. “He’s one of the most explosive players in the country. “

Alongside Thomas is sophomore running back Byron Marshall, who did more than just fill in for Thomas when he went down with the injury.

“No one is talking about [Marshall] but that’s another one of their guys who is just crazy fast when he has space.”

The reserve has stepped up and broken out, and could be a Heisman candidate next season.

Rodriguez said he has looked over the tape of Stanford’s 26-20 win against Oregon on Nov. 7 and joked that if the Wildcats want to stop Oregon this Saturday, they will need the Cardinal’s 11 defenders to transfer to Arizona.

Stanford was able to control the time of possession and force Oregon to be defensive while the Cardinal’s defense was on attack mode.

Against Stanford, the Ducks had the ball for a total of 17:26 of the 60 minutes.

—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella

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