Ducks have chance at payback versus 'Cats
EUGENE — Things got ugly for the Oregon Ducks very quickly the last time they played Arizona.
Marcus Mariota was intercepted on the first play from scrimmage when Bralon Addison dropped a pass near the sideline and Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson grabbed the carom and flipped it back to teammate Scooby Wright as he was falling out of bounds.
That ended Mariota's Pac-12 record streak of passes without an interception at 353. The Wildcats would go on to win 42-16 in Tucson, handing the Ducks their first loss to an unranked team since 2009.
It dashed any hope that Oregon had for a shot at the national championship after an earlier loss to Stanford. It also effectively put an end to a four-year run of postseason BCS bowl games.
So do the No. 2 Ducks want a little revenge on Thursday night when they host the Wildcats? The players have tried to say all the right things about focusing on themselves and not the opponent, but Keanon Lowe hinted that there was some payback at play.
"It'll be a fun game, it'll be a challenging game," Lowe said. "We got our butts whooped last year so it will be fun to get another shot at them and play on a Thursday night."
Mariota was sticking to the script that it's "just another game."
"We're not even worrying about it," he said. "We've just got to continue to execute what we have to."
It wasn't the first time Arizona had surprised the Ducks. Back in 2007, Oregon was ranked No. 2 and bidding for a national championship when quarterback Dennis Dixon's injured knee gave out and Arizona won 34-23.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said he expects Oregon to be hyped up no matter what has happened in the past.
"I think they're going to be fired up because there is a lot at stake. It's a home game, a Thursday night, and their blackout game," Rodriguez said. "I don't know if last year's game will be extra motivation. It may be more motivation for preparation, but once the ball is kicked off, what happened last year is in the past."
The Ducks (4-0, 1-0) had last weekend off after a 37-31 victory over Washington State that many have suggested exposed Oregon's weaknesses, especially on defense. Injuries on the Ducks offensive line were also evident.
The Ducks used the off week, dubbed "improvement week" by coach Mark Helfrich, to work out the kinks.
Arizona has started 4-0 for the first time since 2010. The Wildcats haven't gone 5-0 to start a season since 1998.
Arizona is also coming off a bye. The Wildcats' last outing was a 49-45 victory over California — won when Anu Solomon hit Austin Hill on a 47-yard Hail Mary on the game's final play. The pass has been called the "Hill Mary."
Arizona scored 36 points in the final quarter, including 19 points in the final 3:30.
Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has studied the film.
"They're 4-0 and have a great offense and just came off a great comeback win so they're going to have a lot of confidence and they know what they're capable of doing," he said. "They played us great last year and I'm sure they're planning on trying to do the same this year."
Helfrich suggested that anything the Ducks can use as motivation to make sure they win, even if it is revenge, well so be it.
"I think it would be impossible if you're any kind of competitor to watch that film and feel real good about it," he said.