Maybe even without the officials helping out, Arizona would have come out of Autzen Stadium with a win. However, their 31-24 victory over Oregon didn’t feel quite right with two terrible calls on their big winning drive, highlighted by a unsportsmanlike conduct on Tony Washington, meant that the Wildcats play spoilers to the Ducks’ ambitions a second year in a row.
After a big sack by Washington which should have set up a field goal on a fourth down from the Oregon 17, his celebration was called as unsportsmanlike conduct, resulting in a first down, with the game tied at 24-24. Oregon had trouble stopping the Arizona offense all game long, so just when they caught a break, some weird call came upon them to ruin the momentum and put it back in the hands of Anu Solomon. A pass interference call on the next play just got Arizona closer to the goal line, eventually finishing the job with a one yard touchdown by Terrence Jones-Grisby.
Grantland ran a puff piece calling Mark Helfrich, the Oregon head coach, a genius. If you believe in karma, this probably had something to do with it. Helfrich is a good head coach and Oregon have a terrific record with him, but they keep finding ways to blow their chances of finally going all the way. Or maybe they’re simply not that good. Marcus Mariota might be a Heisman candidate, but on the last drive he was sacked by Scooby Wright who also recovered the fumble, something he did in last year’s win over Oregon as well.
The first half was about defense and offenses struggling to get going. Arizona got a field goal in the first quarter, Oregon scored a touchdown in the second quarter with Mariota catching a touchdown pass. In the second half, Arizona turned it up a notch. Solomon was intercepted once, but also made a big play for a touchdown pass and finished with 287 yards. Oregon tried to blitz, but kept opening up the short gains for Solomon, who completed all of his passes on throws less than 15 yards downfield. If Oregon would have done its homework, they’d know that almost 75% of Solomon throws are on short routes.
Mariota had his moments. He caught a pass from Freeman, resulting in a 26-yard touchdown. He hit Devon Allen on a big 4th-and-11 to keep a drive alive that eventually tied the game at 24. He threw two touchdown passes for 276 yards. But his running game wasn’t there with just one yard on nine carries. For all the talk about being a innovative and genius offense, Oregon rely on running the ball, something Arizona prepared for and did a very good job in stopping it from happening.
The Ducks finished with just 144 yards on the ground, and did a bad job when it came to rushing between the tackles. They were held to just 2.8 yards per carry on those plays after doing so well on those runs against weaker opponents this season. They found the same problem in their win over Michigan State, but their passing game in that one overcame that issue. That, and they didn’t have a weird official call ruin their day.
Arizona are now 5-0 for the first time since 1998. With all the talk about UCLA, USC, Oregon and Stanford, suddenly the Wildcats have a say in how the Pac-12 will shape out to be, whether it’s the Rose Bowl, conference championship and maybe even the playoffs. There’s still a long way to go, but Oregon are going to take a huge hit in the rankings, while Arizona will be introduced to the top 25 for the first time this season.