Citizen Staff Writer
Oregon State is playing for a shot at the Rose Bowl, ranked No. 21 nationally and on a roll.
That means the Beavers are ripe for Arizona’s November trap, which captures and destroys a top team’s season and brings joy to Tucsonville.
“We seem to play our best when our backs are against the wall,” UA coach Mike Stoops acknowledged.
Arizona (6-4, 4-3) enters Saturday’s 5 p.m. kickoff against Oregon State (7-3, 6-1) with a five-game winning streak over ranked teams in November since Stoops took over in 2004 – including last year’s 34-24 win over No. 2 Oregon.
“We compete against the best teams. That really gets our juices flowing,” Stoops said. “We understand what type of team (Oregon State) is. This would be a great win for this team and our program.”
The Wildcats have already wrapped up a postseason bid, but would like to make up for last week’s 55-45 loss at Oregon and enhance their bowl prospects with wins over OSU and Arizona State on Dec. 6.
“There is nothing to lose . . . we can leave it all on the field,” UA linebacker Ronnie Palmer said. “We have been waiting to hit our stride. We were definitely humbled by last week’s performance so we have to get after Oregon State.”
Four of UA’s upsets in November have come at Arizona Stadium. And the Wildcats once again are playing better at home this season, averaging 42.2 points and 403 yards per game while allowing just 15 points and 278 yards.
But as UA receiver Delashaun Dean said, “If you don’t have the right focus or intensity, it doesn’t matter where you are playing.”
This Oregon State is different than the other UA victims in the past. The Beavers play well in November, too.
OSU started with a 2-3 record each of the last three seasons. But in 2006, it won eight of nine games and defeated Missouri in the Sun Bowl. In 2007, it won seven of eight games and beat Maryland in the Emerald Bowl.
This season, the granddaddy of them all – the Rose Bowl – might await Oregon State if it beats UA and Oregon. The Beavers have won five straight games.
This may be the most unlikely Beavers team to pull off such an accomplishment after replacing the entire front seven on defense.
But after losses to Stanford and Utah and a humiliating 45-14 defeat at Penn State, Oregon State upset No. 1 USC 27-21 and has been playing well since.
“They are probably one of the most underrated teams in the country,” Stoops said about the Beavers. “They do a tremendous job of maximizing their players. . . . Look at their recruiting. I don’t think they have been in the top 25, ever, but they always win nine or 10 games. It’s a credit to their coaches and their players.”
That said, Stoops said the Wildcats have a lot to play for, too.
“We will focus on what this means for us and not what it does for them,” Stoops said. “This game will be another defining moment in this season. And how we respond is important.”
Oregon State (7-3, 6-1) at Arizona (6-4, 4-3)
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Arizona Stadium
Radio: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM
How UA has fared vs. ranked foes in November under Mike Stoops:
Year Rank Opponent Result
2007 No. 2 Oregon W, 34-24
2006 No. 8 California W, 24-20
2006 No. 25 at WSU W, 27-17
2005 No. 7 UCLA W, 52-14
2004 No. 18 ASU W, 34-27
2004 No. 1 at USC L, 49-9
CATS LIKE HOME
Category UA home UA away
Record 4-1 2-3
Points scored 42.2 39.2
Points allowed 14.8 30.6
First downs 22.6 22
Rushing yds 190.6 154.2
Rush yds allowed 89.2 184.4
Pass yds 212.2 268.8
Pass yds allowed 186 151.8
Total yds 402.8 423
Total yds allowed 278.4 336.2