Other than traveling to Fort Huachuca during fall camp, this new Wildcat regime has not yet traveled together and their first time doing so, may be one of the most difficult trips that any team makes in all of college football at Autzen Stadium.
“It’ll be the first time I’ll be up there,” Rodriguez mentioned in his weekly press conference on Monday. “It’s one of the most hostile environments in college football and the crowd is into it, I’m sure…It’s going to be loud.”
Oregon has won the last four meetings between these two teams having scored more than forty points in all of them. Despite the fact that the Wildcats have put up over 50 points the last two weeks, Coach Rodriguez knows this weekend’s game is another animal.
“Our guys understand this is a whole other level of what we are going to go in on Saturday night in Eugene,” said Rodriguez. “It’s going to be a big challenge. They are a very good football team, one of the best in the country for the last several years.”
With Rodriguez coming to Arizona, these two teams now have very similar approaches offensively. It’s all about speed and it’s all about tempo. Rodriguez acknowledges that Oregon’s offense will not allow the defense to make substitutions and how much they thrive on the big play. Something the Wildcats are now working toward and have shown they are capable of.
“We just have to contain their speed,” explained Arizona sophomore safety Jared Tevis who has been a surprise player for the Wildcats so far this season. “They got a lot of quick guys and they hit the holes quickly. We just have to contain them and play hard.”
When you think quick guys on Oregon, the first name that comes to mind based on his play this season is sophomore running back De’Anthony Thomas. He has 228 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns on just 13 carries and has 154 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns on just 11 catches. He has the ability to make a big play every time he touches the football. It’s something Rodriguez has known since Thomas was in high school.
“We were trying to recruit him,” Rodriguez stated. “At the time he was one of the most explosive high school players and now he is one of the most explosive college players. I mean, there’s no one catching him.”
“Every week he makes amazing plays,” added Arizona sophomore cornerback Jonathan McKnight. “We need to run to the ball, tackle hard and wrap him up.”
So the question for the Wildcats is how will they look to contain this explosive Oregon Duck offense?
“Tackling in the open field is going to be a big issue,” said Rodriguez. “We have to make sure we get guys there. That’s a huge thing…We have some good players, but do we have a lot of explosive guys, I don’t know yet.”
The Wildcats are riding high with their 3-0 start especially off their home upset of Oklahoma State two weeks ago. They have made themselves relevant in the college football world being in the top-25 now for the second consecutive week. But Arizona remains hungry and hopes to show that their fast start is not a fluke.
“Oregon is a top-five team,” said Arizona senior quarterback Matt Scott. “We’re coming off a strong week and we want to show them that we are capable of beating them.”
The Wildcats and Ducks kick-off from Autzen Stadium at 7:30 on Saturday.