Zona Does the Ducks Again
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Anyone who didn't see this coming hasn't been paying attention.
The Arizona Wildcats ran the ball down Oregon's throat last year and then watched the stunned Ducks self-destruct in the desert. This time, with a frosh quarterback who's an upgrade from 2013, Rich Rodriguez's anything you can do, I can do faster offensive attack was relentless in a 31-24 victory where the scoreline flattered the vanquished.
If there was any logic to that bikini-&-sash hypefest that is the Heisman Trophy, a deep-drill analysis of Marcus Mariota's performace should actually enhance his status as a candidate. The dude's got no line in front of him. When three Zona DLs can command his immediate attention -- and they did, early and often -- Mariota was left with trying to make chicken salad in the crucible of eight-man coverage. That he often did is why pro scouts get so tent-pantsed.
Mariota's a one-man antidote for Oregon's defense, still ranked at the bottom of the Pac-12.
Whatever the Ducks do with their leftover donations after building a training facility that would put a tear in George Jetson's eye and donning duds that out-bling anyone on Karl Lagerfeld's runway, it isn't spent on better preparing its tackles. Injuries occur in every program. Are Oregon's DLs so busy in practice, they can't level-up freshman Tyrell Crosby and former walk-on Matt Pierson any better than what's been on offer the past two weeks?
It's not like they didn't know what was coming. Washington State actually has a decent defense. So does Arizona. Those two units combined to sack Mariota 11 times -- Wazzu 7; Zona 4 -- in the past ten days. And what's coming is ominous; Stanford, UCLA, and Washington all have stronger defenses than those two. Oregon's got to either dial up 1-800-FAITH-HEALER for their starting and second-team tackles, or they'd better hurry Crosby and Pierson along more efficiently than they've done so far.
This fact bears updating: over the past eleven years now, a Pac-12 champion has run the table only three times, and most West Coast observers possessing any astuteness at all have long figured this year's survivor will be damn lucky to emerge with only one defeat. Already, only Arizona and UCLA have clean sheets.
Such is the way of a nine-game conference schedule, and it's only getting started. While the most blinded in Eugene wail that Oregon is slipping, the reality is that the rest of the league began catching up with them last season.
And while Mariota was the Duck who kept his team in this tilt, the lasting image of him in it will be losing a tug-of-war to Scooby Wright III -- who made the key D play in the Wildcats' victory over Oregon last year -- that extinguished any chance Oregon had at a last-minute drive to tie.
It was the iconic play. Arizona not only stormed into Eugene and took the game to Oregon, the 'Cats also took it from them.