Arizona likely to key in on Oregon QB MariotaPosted: Updated:
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- Last season Arizona went after Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota early and kept on hassling him.
Expect the same when the Wildcats visit the No. 2 Ducks Thursday night at Autzen Stadium.
"Last year, getting to Mariota early on in the game probably threw him off a little bit. It always helps when we come out on fire in all cylinders. But it's a 60-minute game, and sometimes longer, so we need to try and keep the pressure on him and contain him the entire time," Arizona senior safety Jared Tevis said.
The 42-16 rout last November was Arizona's first over a top-five team since knocking off No. 2 Oregon in 2007.
The Wildcats intercepted Mariota's pass on his first play from scrimmage, ending his Pac-12 record streak of 353 passes without a pick. Oregon's quarterback would finish with 308 yards passing with two touchdowns but two interceptions.
Mariota wore a brace on his knee in that game and later it was revealed that he had partially torn his medial collateral ligament in a game four weeks before.
Much like last season before his injury, Mariota is considered a leading Heisman candidate. He has thrown for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns with no interceptions. He's also run for three scores.
"When watching him on film, the first and biggest thing that sticks out to me is his speed," Wildcats defensive lineman Dan Pettinato said. "He's quick and I've seen him outrun defensive backs and linebackers. There are times when you'll see him looking one way, and then he'll end up escaping the opposite way."
Mariota completed 21 of 25 passes for 329 yards and five touchdowns in Oregon's last outing, a 38-31 victory over Washington State on Sept. 20.
Arizona also had a bye week after a dramatic come-from-behind 49-45 victory over California, won when quarterback Anu Solomon hit Austin Hill on a 47-yard Hail Mary on the game's final play.
Here are some other things to consider when Arizona visits Oregon on Thursday night.
SPEAKING OF HAIL MARYS: The Wildcats practice the Hail Mary every Thursday but they don't run it against a traditional defense because of the possibility of injuries. Arizona recently installed a new version of the play, but they called for the old one during the game against Cal. "We always catch it and we always celebrate," Rodriguez said about running the drill.
FRESHMAN SENSATION: Solomon has 13 touchdown passes and three interceptions this season. Against Cal, he set NCAA freshman records with 89 offensive plays, 73 attempts and 47 completions. He finishes with 520 yards passing and five touchdowns.
THINK PINK: Oregon will wear special black uniforms with pink numbers, along with pink gloves, cleats and socks, to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness month. Special jerseys hats and T-shirts will also be available to fans with a portion of the proceeds going to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
FAB FROSH: Twelve of the Ducks' 27 touchdowns have been scored by freshmen, with running back Royce Freeman and receiver Devon Allen with five apiece. Freeman, a true freshman, has rushed for 261 yards on 48 carries through the first four games, and Allen, a redshirt who ran track last season and won the NCAA 110 hurdles title, has 14 catches for 299 yards.
O-LINE WOES: With Tyler Johnstone, Andre Yruretagoyena and Jake Fisher all out with injuries, Oregon's offensive line is unstable at best. The Ducks started true freshman Tyrell Crosby and former walk-on Matt Pierson at tackle in the victory against Washington State, and Mariota was sacked seven times. The bye week gave the newcomers a chance to get used to their roles. "You have to trust them up front," Mariota said. "We have the utmost confidence in those guys and we're going to roll with what we have."