Zona to Ducks: Rose Bowl This!
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It's totally fitting that Arizona was the team to pluck Oregon's Ducks this weekend.
Of the original Pac-10 teams, the Wildcats are the only one never to make it to the Rose Bowl.
So maybe they were more motivated than most to take the recent comments uttered by certain Ducks about being bored with the Grandaddy of Them All and cram them right down their collective gizzards.
Ennui doesn't play well in the Pac-12 or in any conference. Arizona gladly took their 42-16 score line, but if they could have run up 100 points, they no doubt would have.
Here's a fact that the history majors on Oregon's roster should have told their teammates to heed: Over the last ten years, a Pac-12 team has gone undefeated in conference play only three times. USC did it in 2004 and 2005, although those victories were officially vacated due to the Reggie Bush scandal. The Ducks ran the table in 2010 but were lucky to escape California with a 15-13 win.
In other words, the conference is built in such a way that undefeated seasons are the exception and far from the rule. Pac-12 teams are thus fortunate to be geographically blessed so that their champions are traditionally awarded a berth in the Rose Bowl. And they should count those blessings every season, not dismiss them.
Given Arizona's 3-4 conference record before game time and its being out of the running for the Pac-12 South title, the Wildcats might have been considered to be the team due for a letdown. Au contraire. They possess one of college football's most gifted running backs in Ka'Deem Carey, who ran all over Arizona Stadium to the tune of 206 yards and racked up four -- count 'em: 4 -- touchdowns.
Oregon's defense has handled hard-pounding teams this season. UCLA and Washington, for example, have strong rushing attacks with solid feature backs. But enough games like that and a team is bound to get worn down. Stanford showed up on Oregon's schedule immediately after UCLA and not long after Washington, so by the time the Ducks got to Palo Alto, the Cardinal had the right personnel -- ie- big, nasty offensive linemen willing to push and shove for four full quarters -- to finish the job on the Ducks' dream season. Stanford handed Tyler Gaffney the ball 45 times to thundering effect in its 26-20 victory.
Arizona was ready with the same approach. The Wildcats might have been caught looking ahead to this game the week before, and Washington State made them pay with an ambush in Tucson. Who knows? Maybe that result gave Oregon a false impression that the Wildcats had softened.
Not so. Arizona's punishing running back and dual threat quarterback -- BJ Denker, who picked this weekend to have the game of his life -- enabled the Wildcats to hammer the ball forward relentlessly and tally over 300 yards rushing. This kept their defense refreshed and Oregon's offense aggravated. The Wildcats were 11-15 on third-down conversions, a telltale sign of their grinding effectiveness.
It was a monumental final home win for the Wildcats, who -- at 7-4 -- are looking for an invitation to a decent bowl game.
And neither is Oregon.