Oregon football coach Mike Bellotti is trying to downplay any bad feelings his Ducks might have for Arizona.
Oregon middle linebacker Casey Matthews is not.
“We need revenge from last year,” Matthews told the Statesman Journal of Salem, Ore.
UA has won the past two games against Oregon, including a 34-24 victory over the then-No. 2 ranked Ducks a year ago. The loss cost Oregon a chance to play for a national title. Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon suffered an injury in the first quarter in the loss, and the Ducks lost their next two games.
The Wildcats return to Autzen Stadium on Saturday for a 4:30 p.m. kickoff. Arizona won the last time in Eugene, 37-10 in 2006.
“They have played well and we haven’t played as well,” Bellotti said about UA’s two wins. “I don’t understand the revenge factor. We want to improve. Every single game is more important than the next.”
Despite the geographical separation of the teams, a bitter rivalry has developed as Oregon and UA recruit the same players.
Oregon starts defensive end Will Tukuafu, a junior who originally committed to Arizona from Scottsdale Community College, only to end up signing with the Ducks after a visit from Bellotti.
Tukuafu is a force, with 15 tackles for loss, seven sacks and 43 tackles.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Terrance Pritchett, who recently left Oregon for personal reasons, also initially committed to UA before changing his mind.
“The better you get, the more you start invading other people’s space. Everybody takes it personal,” UA coach Mike Stoops said about recruiting against Oregon. “It shows you are getting a little bit better.”
The glitz and glamour of Oregon’s athletic facilities failed to sway UA cornerback Devin Ross.
“They have good facilities, the locker room has plasma TVs and all the Nike stuff. That’s exciting to see, but it is bigger than that,” Ross said. “You have to look at your future and what is the bottom line. I just felt (UA) was the best place for me.”
Everybody recruits against each other in the Pac-10, but the players have noticed a different vibe this week for Oregon.
“It’s a a game that we get up for, without a doubt,” UA offensive lineman Joe Longacre said. “For some reason, (the coaches) get really excited.
“It gets us excited.”
ARIZONA (5-3, 4-2) at OREGON (7-3, 5-2)
When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Eugene, Ore.
Radio: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM
Line: Oregon by 4