DuckNews Preview – Arizona

Arizona is one of those few teams in the conference officially in “rebuild” mode, but for some reason, no matter what mode the Wildcats are in, Tucson hasn’t been a fun destination spot for the Ducks.

Oregon hasn’t won in the desert since 2011 when LaMichael James set a school record by rushing for 292 yards in a 56-31 romp over Arizona.

This game in 2018 has a chance to go in a similar fashion. The Wildcats are 11th in the conference in total defense, allowing 441 yards a game. They’re also 11th in rush defense (196 ypg) and ninth in pass defense (245 ypg).

Those stats should be good news to Oregon’s balanced offensive attack. The Ducks are second in the Pac-12 in passing (273 ypg) and fourth in rushing (188 ypg).

Unfortunately for the Ducks last week, the offense wasn’t as balanced as they would like it to be since they fell behind 27-0. Coach Mario Cristobal definitely wants a return-to-form this week.

“We were inconsistent in the run game. We knew it would be a challenge with their (Washington State) movements and their stunts,” he said. “We would have liked to stick with the run game more, but with how the game played out, we threw the ball more. In the second half, you’d like to run more and take control of the game.”

The stat sheet says Oregon should be able to rush the ball a lot better this week and win, but the Ducks are coming off of a disappointing loss up in the Palouse and need to focus on putting two good halves together. No matter if Arizona is rebuilding or not, if Oregon just plays 30 minutes of football, the losing streak in the desert will continue.

Not to pile on Arizona’s woes, starting quarterback Khalil Tate is questionable and will most likely be a game time decision. If Tate is unable to go due to a sprained ankle, sophomore Rhett Rodriguez will play. Although he’s just 6-foot and 201 pounds, Rodriguez is not a running quarterback.

In the 31-30 loss to UCLA last week, Rodriguez was just 15-of-34 passing for 231 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

“I thought Rhett did some really good things and he did some things he would like to take back,” Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said of his backup quarterback’s work against the Bruins. “He’s very, very critical of himself, but in the end, he gave us a chance to win the game.”

Arizona has lost three of its last four games with its last win coming three weeks ago, a 24-17 win against Cal. Sumlin, who also interviewed for the Oregon job in the offseason before the Ducks decided on Cristobal, is known for his high-powered offensive attacks when he was at Texas A&M and Houston. But the Wildcats hasn’t been high-powered anything as of yet with their 3-5 record.

When Arizona came to Autzen Stadium last season, the ‘Cats picked the wrong time to do so. It was Justin Herbert’s comeback from injury after missing five straight games. Herbert threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns as the Ducks steamrolled Arizona 48-28.

Herbert isn’t coming off of injury this time around. He’s 100 percent healthy and looking to help the Ducks rebound from last week’s loss the dropped Oregon to 5-2 overall and seven spots in the AP poll to No. 19.

The Ducks and the Wildcats kickoff at 7:30 pm televised on ESPN.

— Don Smalley