At the beginning of the season, if you were going down the list of games you would want to watch, Justin Herbert’s Oregon squad playing against Khalil Tate’s Arizona side would be near the top of the list. Exciting offenses, big name quarterbacks and an element of Pac-12 After Dark too would check off a lot of boxes after all.
The season hasn’t quite played out the way we all expected and so Saturday night’s contest between the Wildcats and the No. 19 Ducks wasn’t quite on everybody’s radar like it should have been. It turns out that was probably a good thing as the home team walloped the visitors from Eugene 44-15 in a very one-sided affair that resulted in a third ranked Pac-12 team falling this weekend.
Tate, it should be noted, was actually worth the price of admission to the thousands of Arizona fans in Tucson for homecoming as the once electric signal-caller looked as much like last year’s edition than at any point in 2018. Though he rushed for only 11 yards on the night, he used his legs plenty to set things up as a passer and wound up with 189 yards through the air with three touchdowns and a pick. It was perhaps his best overall effort with the new coaching staff and had to be pretty encouraging to Kevin Sumlin considering he was caught walking into the stadium in a boot.
Add in contributions from running back JJ Taylor (212 yards, two touchdowns), Shawn Poindexter (two TD catches) plus Shun Brown (96 yards, one score) and the offense was finally clicking in the manner UA fans were expecting it to all year long.
The defense wasn’t too shabby either, forcing six 3-and-outs against one of the conference’s best offenses and creating three turnovers. Though they recorded just one sack, there was a constant mix of different looks and pressure, which led to an off night from the visitors.
And by off, we mean way off.
Herbert had a constant barrage of incompletions as he was as inaccurate as he has ever been in a game, completing 24 passes for 186 yards with an interception and two touchdown throws. Maybe as a sign of just how things weren’t going his way, the quarterback was also the team’s leading rusher and there wasn’t much help from CJ Verdell (14 yards) or Travis Dye (23 yards). All told, the Ducks converted just three third downs in what will surely be another disappointing loss for the program after briefly holding out hopes of winning the Pac-12 North following their upset a few weeks ago of rival Washington.
Either way, Oregon figures to miss out on the College Football Playoff rankings next Tuesday after falling to 6-3 on the season and have to be wondering what lies ahead as their once promising campaign has fluttered in late October. Arizona, meanwhile, can look ahead to an easier route to getting bowl eligible as they host a reeling Colorado squad on Friday and then have just two other games the rest of November in their quest for the postseason.