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No. 6 Oregon clinches Pac-12 North title with win over Arizona

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Justin Herbert stuck around his hometown school for one more season in order to deliver on a few promises and lead Oregon back to conference and, hopefully, national glory. The senior quarterback took a step in that direction on Saturday night in Eugene, helping the No. 6 Ducks thump Arizona 34-6 and lock up the Pac-12 North title in the process.

It was a wire-to-wire victory too, with the home side delighting the Autzen Stadium crowd with a 73 yard touchdown reception by Johnny Johnson III on just the second snap of the ball game thanks to a busted coverage. That was one of four scoring tosses for Herbert, who finished with 333 yards through the air and an interception off a tipped pass in what was his penultimate game at the stadium just a few miles from his childhood home.

While that strike to Johnson was a heck of a way to get the game going, it was another Johnson, Penn State transfer Juwan, who led the team in receiving (93 yards) and had the highlight-reel throw from the potential first-rounder off a lovely reverse flea-flicker he took into the end zone.

UO’s defense also continued their strong run of results in netting six sacks, nine tackles for loss and allowing just five third down conversions while keeping the Wildcats under 250 yards of total offense.

Grant Gunnell actually got the start at quarterback for Arizona but threw for just 82 yards and was mostly sitting on the sidelines during the second and third quarters. That was the time for UO’s normal tormentor in Khalil Tate, who failed to get much of anything going despite some past performances full of big numbers.

While it was going to be a tough task no matter what to knock off a top 10 team at home, the ‘Cats now face an even more difficult task of beating both No. 7 Utah and Arizona State in their remaining two games or risk missing a bowl game for the second straight year under Kevin Sumlin.

A postseason berth isn’t something for the Ducks to worry about as they clinch their first division since 2014 and will be ticketed to Santa Clara for the Pac-12 title game against what they hope is a College Football Playoff quarterfinal against a similarly red-hot Utes team. Oregon has won nine in a row since their season-opening loss to Auburn and outside of perhaps Ohio State, Clemson or LSU, there are few teams in the country playing better football than this one.

That’s just what Herbert and his fellow stars were hoping to do in returning for one last hurrah and they’re certainly living up to those expectations with their play so far in 2019.

No. 6 Oregon strikes fast in grabbing halftime lead over Arizona

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There are a wide variety of things you could call ‘tone-setting’ plays in college football and it’s safe to say that No. 6 Oregon scoring a long touchdown on the second offensive snap of the game would qualify as one as they look to clinch a division title on Saturday night.

The Ducks jumped out to a 21-6 halftime lead over visiting Arizona in a rather convincing effort at Autzen Stadium as they continue to look impressive in the beauty contest that is the College Football Playoff race at this point.

A Wildcats coverage bust led to that initial score, as Johnny Johnson III raced 73 yards to pay dirt to showcase right from the get-go that things were clicking on all cylinders offensively. Oregon QB Justin Herbert wound up at the break with 218 yards and tossed another touchdown off a nifty reverse flea-flicker right into the waiting arms of Juwan Johnson from 53 yards out.

The Ducks didn’t miss All-America-caliber left tackle Penei Sewell as a result with the mammoth offensive lineman sitting out the first two series for what school officials said was being late to a meeting. Given that the first of those drives lasted all of two plays and the second was a 3-and-out, he certainly lucked out despite the tardiness.

Things didn’t go so well for WR Mycah Pittman. The freshman has been one of the team’s top options since getting healthy but it sure looked like he might not return the rest of the regular season after suffering from a horrible looking injury to his wrist/forearm. He was carted off the field after being looked at by trainers and while he won’t be missed this game the way the two Johnsons are playing, is a long term injury worth monitoring for sure.

As for Arizona, Grant Gunnell started at quarterback (4-of-6, 28 yards) but was eventually replaced by Khalil Tate as things wore on in the second quarter. The latter did seem to provide some spark in helping move the ball down the field but the end result was just a pair of field goals and a decent deficit to overcome after the break.

Keep in mind that the Wildcats are hoping to even their record on the year at 5-5 and remain in the running for a bowl game while Oregon will no doubt be looking for style points in the second half to impress the Selection Committee and lock up the Pac-12 North title at the same time.

Arizona sees little-used TE Jake Peters enter transfer portal

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Another day another portal entry, with Arizona the latest to see a personnel deduction.

On his personal Twitter account, Jake Peters (pictured, right) announced that, “[a]fter speaking with my family and the coaching staff it is in my best interest to enter into the Transfer Portal.” Added the redshirt freshman tight end, “Arizona will always be a home to my family and me.

“Bear Down.”

Coming out of high school in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., Peters was a three-star member of the Wildcats’ 2018 recruiting class. Peters played in a total of two games while at Arizona, one each during the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Days after canning its DC, Arizona gives up season-high 56 points in double-digit loss to Oregon State

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Well, so much for that.

Sunday night, Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin fired defensive coordinator Marcel Yates and linebackers coach John Rushing.  Six days later, in its first game since the twin axings, Arizona gave up a season-high 56 points in an 18-point loss to Oregon State.

The Wildcats (4-5 overall, 2-4 in the Pac-12) actually trailed just 7-6 at the end of the first quarter before a 28-point second quarter staked the Wildcats to a 35-19 halftime lead and, ultimately, a 56-38 win.

Arizona came into the game giving up an average of 35 points per game, 118th in the country and dead-last in the Pac-12.  They have now allowed 41 or more points in four straight games and six times in nine outings overall this season.

Arguably the biggest storyline coming out of the game, though, is OSU’s Pac-12 mini-rise in its second season under Jonathan Smith.

The previous three seasons, the Beavers won a combined four games in conference play, including one the past two years.  This season, OSU (4-4 overall) sits at 3-2 in the league and all alone in second place in the North Division, with only in-state rival Oregon (5-0) ahead of them.

Greatly aiding the Beavers cause once again was quarterback Jake Luton, who passed for 328 yards and three touchdowns on 20-of-26 passing (221 passer rating).  This was Luton’s fifth career 30–yard game and second this season.

Arizona fires defensive coordinator Marcel Yates

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Turns out, giving up 41 points to Stanford is a fireable offense in the Pac-12 these days.

Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin axed defensive coordinator Marcel Yates and linebackers coach John Rushing, as first reported by the Arizona Daily Star on Sunday night.

The move had to be a tough one personally for Sumlin as Yates worked on his staff previously at Texas A&M. Yates, a holdover from Rich Rodriguez‘s staff, was in his fourth season running Arizona’s defense. Arizona never ranked higher than 98th nationally in scoring defense under his direction; the Wildcats stand at 118th today, permitting an even 35 points per game.

To replace Yates and Rushing, Sumlin is sliding up two members of his support staff. Chuck Cecil will take over as defensive coordinator and Hank Hobson will move to the full-time staff. Both worked as analysts for the Wildcats.

Cecil and Hobson share upbringings as decorated linebackers at Arizona, though Cecil is obviously the more decorated of the two. A College Football Hall of Famer as a player, Cecil spent 15 years coaching in the NFL, rising as high as the defensive coordinator spot for the Tennessee Titans in 2009-10.

Arizona is 4-4 on the season (2-3 Pac-12). The Wildcats host Oregon State on Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks).