Oregon rushing game difficult to contain
Too much pressure is a bad thing. Too little could be lethal.
The right amount is required for Arizona on Saturday when it faces Oregon’s run-oriented spread offense.
The teams meet at 4:30 p.m. in Eugene, Ore.
Too much pressure by the UA defensive line will allow the Ducks to break screen plays for big-play yardage.
Too little pressure will give quarterback Jeremiah Masoli plenty of options to keep the ball himself or hand off to running backs Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount.
“That option does temper you a little bit,” UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops said about the country’s fifth-rated rushing attack. “It makes you play disciplined football. It is hard to just pin your ears back and go after them.”
Only USC has stopped the Ducks. The Trojans held Oregon to 60 rushing yards on Oct. 4.
Oregon is averaging 274 rushing yards per game. The Wildcat defense allows 131 yards on the ground.
Everybody knows the Ducks are going to run, yet they have rushed for more than 300 yards in six games. They had 408 yards against Utah State.
“It is more of a mental game with them,” UA defensive end Ricky Elmore said. “You have to play a lot better technique and focus on things you usually don’t have to.”
Prior to Masoli throwing for 144 yards in a 35-28 win over Stanford last week, he had thrown for less than 50 yards in two of his previous three games.
“By the time you’re in the second quarter it feels like you’re in the second half,” ASU linebacker Mike Nixon said after the Ducks gained 304 yards against ASU in a 54-20 victory.
“Their spread tries to get one-on-one situations where if everybody is not sound and there’s a break, they take advantage. To beat a team like that you really have to limit the big plays.”
Arizona has not allowed many long runs this season. The exceptions came against New Mexico (221 rushing yards) and Stanford (286).
UA lost both games.
The Ducks have an elusive running back and a power one. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Johnson has 825 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns. Blount, at 6-2, 229, has 741 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Then there’s Masoli, who has started just the past few games but already has 470 yards rushing, including 170 against UCLA.
“They give you a lot of different looks,” Mark Stoops said. “They mix it up. They keep you guessing, flopping guys around, moving the running back around.”
The Wildcats could stack up everyone to stop the run and leave cornerbacks Devin Ross and Marquis Hundley going one on one with Oregon receivers. But Masoli has shown the ability to make defenses pay for doing that.
Having a bruising offensive line is another reason Oregon’s rushing stats are so good. The Ducks have four seniors and one sophomore starting up front, with the players averaging 6-4, 300 pounds.
The good news for UA is that it has beaten Oregon two straight times while facing this offense.
The Wildcats knocked off the No. 2-ranked Ducks 34-24 a year ago after then-Heisman Trophy favorite Dennis Dixon left the game in the first quarter with an injury.
Arizona defeated the Ducks 37-10 two years ago in Autzen Stadium, but don’t expect another rout like that this time.
“It won’t be easy, but with our past success we know how to attack it,” defensive tackle Donald Horton said. “They are good at what they do. It is hard to stop.”
Oregon’s offensive yards this season:
Team Rush Total
Washington 256 496
Utah State 408 688
Purdue 306 503
Boise State 227 464
Wash. St. 346 507
USC 60 239
UCLA 323 365
ASU 304 537
California 206 290
Stanford 307 451
Averages 274 454
Arizona (6-3, 4-2) at Oregon (7-3, 5-2) When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday Where: Eugene, Ore. TV: FSNA Radio: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM Line: Oregon by 3.5