TUCSON Oregon has something Arizona cant teach: Speed.
Few teams anywhere can compete when it comes to Oregon and speed.
As Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez has said all week: Oregon is fast, really fast.
Fast forward to Saturday where No. 22 Arizona faces No. 3 Oregon in Eugene in each teams Pac-12 opener.
So that means were going to have to get to the spot before they do, said Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer.
Although it might appear Oregon as if will be running downhill and Arizona will be running up it, the Wildcats will do what they can to impede Oregons progress. Their chances of pulling off an upset depend on it.
"Our guys aren't going to BS anybody: We have to play pretty well and hope they play poor at times and give us a chance, Rodriguez said.
We're not conceding anything. I'm just saying, that's the way it is.
Its about being smart and resourceful, and again playing a mistake-free game.
Is it possible? If Arizonas surprising victory against Oklahoma State was an indication, Arizona at least has a chance, thanks in large measure to an explosive offense of its own. But also temper that with the reality Arizona will be on the road for the first time this season in one of the tougher venues in college football and against a team that has put up 56, 48, 44 and 55 points on the Wildcats in the past four meetings.
And the Ducks are better than the Cowboys on paper and on the field when it comes to speed.
But you can teach angles, Fischer said. We cant play sideways with them because those (running) backs are way too good because when they find a spot they hit it.
And if they get behind the defense, we arent going to catch them.
Oregons numbers and they are numerous dont lie. Of the Ducks 23 drives that resulted in touchdowns this season, 14 have required less than two minutes; seven have taken less than a minute.
Blink and youll miss them.
"They break tackles, so if we wrap up, we should be in good shape, said UA safety Jared Tevis.
Easier said than done. Oregon is as slippery and as elusive as any team in the country. If speed thrills, talent kills, and Oregon is loaded with it.
One in particular is sophomore running back DAnthony Thomas, Oregons Sports Illustrateds cover guy, who averages 15.3 yards every time he handles the football -- be it rushing (228 yards), receiving (154) or punt returning (93). He's had a run of 59 yards, a reception of 49 and a return of 48, and hes tied for first in the nation with seven touchdowns.
There's no one catching him, Rodriguez said. They'll hand him the ball, they'll throw it to him, and he'll return kicks and punts. He's a nice young man. I had no doubts that he was going to have a successful career. I just wish he wasn't in the Pac-12."
Fischer said Arizona will have to play smart and adjust to every move. Its what Arizona did when it faced Oklahoma State.
You also have to realize that when youre getting up to the defensive line two or three times a minute you have to be smart, but you also have to be disciplined because if youre out of whack when they are snapping the ball youre going to get caught off (guard), Fischer said.
The Wildcats know they won't be able to stop the Ducks cold, but they'd settle for something similar to what they did against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys amassed 636 yards, but they turned it over four times. Oregon has been prone to some sloppiness in its first three games with seven turnovers -- but the Ducks were turnover free in last year's 56-31 victory over the Wildcats. They ran wild in that game -- 415 yards on 47 rushes.
Heres the truth about Oregon: Fischer said opponents know what Oregon is running, but people just cant stop it half the time.
Thomas isn't the only weapon, of course, only the most explosive one. Kenjon Barner bears the brunt of the rushing load -- carrying 56 times for 324 yards and six touchdowns. And the success of the running game opens up the passing game for redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota -- who has completed 75 percent of his passes (58 of 77) for 674 yards and eight TDs.
If Arizona is to pull off only its third victory over the Ducks in the last 14 meetings, it will have to do what it did against Oklahoma State make adjustments after getting beat on plays, toughen up all game, be opportunistic and, well, not panic.
We have to make as many stops as we can because our offense has done a good job of moving the ball, Fischer said. We have to keep up our end of the bargain.