Oregon 56 … at Arizona 31

Posted Sep 24, 2011

Week 4 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Story - Oregon at Arizona

2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 4 - Oregon at Arizona

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Sept. 24 Oregon 56 … at Arizona 31
CFN Analysis: The LSU game is obviously well in the rearview mirror. Oregon's offense is humming at the same level it was at last year with LaMichael James coming up with the best game of his great career running for 288 yards and two scores against the supposedly decent Arizona defense. The Duck secondary struggled a bit against Nick Foles, but the Wildcats are going to bomb away on everyone and most of the production was in garbage time. The pass rush was fantastic, the ground game was unstoppable, and it was the third straight game with 56 points or more. Now come home games against Cal and Arizona State following up by Colorado and Washington State. The Ducks should easily be 7-1 going into the Stanford showdown.

Arizona isn't just bad, it's not even close. Granted, Oklahoma State, Stanford, and Oregon are among the ten best teams in the nation, possibly top five, but still, the Wildcats are supposed to be making a move forward and they lost their last three games by a combined score of 130 to 56. The passing game has been great, a case could be made that Nick Foles is playing better than any quarterback in the Pac-12, but the defensive line has been miserable and the offensive line has been awful. There's no running game whatsoever, and the defense isn't slowing down anyone. It comes down to this; is Arizona can't beat USC on the road next week, it'll take something truly special for Mike Stoops to keep his gig.

(AP) TUCSON, Ariz. -- LaMichael James kept zipping and zagging through the desert night, playing the Road Runner to Arizona's Wile E. Coyote.

By the time he had finished slashing his way through and around the Wildcats on Saturday night, he had a school record 288 yards. He also broke the Oregon mark for career rushing touchdowns with two scores to lead the No. 10 Ducks to a 56-31 victory over Arizona in their Pac-12 opener.

"We just couldn't find a way to stop him," Wildcats coach Mike Stoops said.

Oregon (3-1), the two-time defending Pac-10 champion, won its 13th consecutive conference game, blowing open a 35-3 lead and then holding off a Wildcats rally before pulling away again with its lightning-quick offense.

All but the last of the Ducks' seven touchdown drives lasted less than three minutes. Darron Thomas passed for two scores and ran for two more

Nick Foles completed 33 of 55 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns for the Wildcats (1-3).

Arizona, playing its third consecutive top-10 team, has lost eight of nine dating to last year. The lone victory was this season's opener against Northern Arizona.

"We just need to develop some leadership," Stoops said, "and we were overwhelmed over the three games."

Oregon has the top-ranked offense in the Pac-12. Arizona's defense statistically is the worst. So the results from the opening kickoff were predictable.

James, who also had a 51-yard punt return, averaged 12.2 yards a carry in his second consecutive and fifth career 200-yard rushing game. He broke Oregon's single-game rushing record of 257 yards by Ontario Smith against Washington State in 2001.

He said he didn't know about the record until someone on the sideline told him he needed 15 yards to break it.

"I was like, 'Oh, hopefully I can stay in the game,'" he said.

James deflected the praise, though, like any good running back should, and he was beyond good on this night.

"I was just really thinking about the win," he said. "Individual records don't mean anything. It takes a team to get those records, and the offensive line did a great job, so I feel like those guys should share the record with me, too."

With his touchdown runs of 12 and 19 yards, the speedy back has 43 scoring runs, breaking Derek Loville's school record of 42.

Oregon coach Chip Kelly said defenses have a tough time with the Ducks' triple running threat of James, Thomas and Kenjon Barner.

"We're starting to find our rhythm," he said. "We've still got some issues up front that we've got to clean up at times, but when our running back's running like that -- it makes us a real tough team to defend from a running standpoint when the quarterback can hit it, Kenjon can hit it, and LaMichael can hit it."

The Ducks amassed 516 yards, 415 on the ground.

"We knew, especially against Nick Foles, that this game never is in hand," Kelly said. "We were aware that we were going to get a great shot from them in the second half, and I thought our offense responded well."

With his team down 35-3, Foles led the Wildcats to three consecutive touchdowns. His 7-yard pass to David Roberts, and 2-point conversion toss to David Douglas, cut Oregon's lead to 35-24 with 3:14 to go in the third quarter. Kelly had seen Foles do this in previous encounters.

But the Ducks simply zipped to another score. James had a 31-yard run, and Thomas went the final 5 yards for the touchdown.

Foles got Arizona to the Oregon 6 on the subsequent kickoff, but the drive stalled. On fourth down he was sacked.

The Ducks reeled off five of their trademark lightning-fast touchdown drives, in six possessions, to open a 35-9 lead at the half.

James led the way, rushing for 133 yards in 11 carries in the first two quarters.

Oregon's first-half TD drives went 2:42 (8 plays, 80 yards), 2:19 (10 plays, 72 yards), 2:06 (8 plays, 80 yards), 2:02 (6 plays, 55 yards) and 1:37 (4 plays, 28 yards).

The Ducks amassed 300 yards in the first two quarters, 214 on the ground. Barner also ran for a pair of scores.

Of the Ducks' 28 touchdown drives this season, 22 have taken less than three minutes. Another went 3:01.

The stadium was almost full, and the student section was packed at kickoff, but about half of the students and a good share of the rest of the crowd was gone by halftime.

Foles' performance included a left-handed toss as he was being swarmed on the sideline -- 11 yards to Keola Antolin and a first down at the Oregon 34 as the third quarter ended.

Oregon (2-1) at Arizona (1-2) Sept. 24, 10:15, ESPN2

Here's The Deal … A couple of Pac-12 programs traveling in completely different directions are set to meet in Tucson. Oregon is on the verge of bouncing back from its deflating loss to LSU on opening night. The Ducks have rung up 125 points in consecutive wins, conjuring up images of last year's point-a-minute offense. However, the opponents were Nevada and Missouri State, leaving observers with a wait-and-see attitude about this program's ultimate potential in 2011. A conference game on the road will be the first of many litmus tests for the two-time defending league champs this fall.

Arizona is sinking - and fast. The Wildcats have lost back-to-back games to ranked opponents by at least three touchdowns. With a high-profile visitor in town, the Cats are facing a crossroad that'll take them on one of two disparate paths. They'll either use Oregon as a much-needed rallying point or raise the temperature beneath embattled head coach Mike Stoops' collar even higher.

Why Oregon Might Win: The high-octane, quick-strike offense is back. Sure, the competition has been a factor, but there's no denying how much speed and explosiveness is on that Ducks roster. The triggerman continues to be versatile QB Darron Thomas, who's blossoming into a complete player. He's thrown nine touchdown passes and no picks in the two routs, spreading the ball around to a multitude of different receivers. RB LaMichael James tore off 204 yards and three touchdowns on only a dozen carries last week, and is just beginning to heat up. For good measure, RB Kenjon Barner is expected back from injury, and all-around athlete De'Anthony Thomas is one of the most electrifying freshmen in the country. When paired with elite offenses the last two weeks, Arizona notched one sack, while allowing nine offensive touchdowns.

Why Arizona Might Win: While it's not always fair to pin the hopes of a team on one player, the Wildcats best shot of delivering the upset hinges on the big arm of QB Nick Foles. That's just the reality in Tucson these days. The senior is the franchise, flashing the skills and maturity to keep Arizona in games with more talented opponents. He's loaded with talented receivers, especially now that all-star Juron Criner is healthy again. The combination of Criner and Dan Buckner on the outside, and David Douglas and David Roberts on the inside will cause all kinds of problems for an Oregon defense that remains a work-in-progress.

What To Watch Out For: While Oregon doesn't need Thomas to put up points this season, it sure is happy to have him in Eugene. A prototypical playmaker, especially in this system, he can do it all for the Ducks offense, taking handoffs or catching passes. Whatever it takes to get him into space, the coaching staff is willing to consider. Even if he only touches the ball a half-dozen times a game, he's the kind of athlete who's going to make the most out of all of them.

What Will Happen: Considering the opponent, it's going to take a herculean effort out of Arizona to reverse its current course. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they simply don't have the talent to deliver in this setting. Oregon is flush with confidence as the offense begins to crank and the defense retools on the fly. The Ducks are back to thinking Rose Bowl once again, generating a slow boil that'll begin to peak in Tucson. Their offense will carry the torch once again, toying with Arizona to the tune of 500 total yards behind monster nights from Thomas and James.

CFN Prediction: Oregon 41 … Arizona 21
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