The Arizona Wildcats did what they absolutely could not afford to do in their top-25 showdown with the Oregon Ducks: They squandered opportunities. As a result, they wound up getting blown off the field to the tune of 49-0.
Oregon's offense can start off a little slow, but enter the second half with a deficit against the Ducks and they will make you pay. Their speed attack can wear out a defense and put up points in a hurry, and teams are not in a position to play ball-control offense, to give their defense a breather, when they are trailing.
It was bad news for Arizona that they trailed 13-0 going into halftime.
Had Arizona been able to execute in the red zone, that score would have been drastically different. The Wildcats were 0-for-3 on red-zone opportunities in the first quarter alone and they added another blown red-zone opportunity early in the second quarter.
While Arizona's defense was playing tough, and their offense had found some success, it was all too predictable that the blown chances would wear the Wildcats down and make for a long second half.
After exchanging a few punts early in the third, the Ducks began to take flight. When Oregon QB Marcus Mariota and tight end Colt Lyerla simultaneously carried the ball in for the first score of the second half, it was clear not much was going to go wrong for Oregon in the half.
If the description of the scoring play sounds odd, it's because the play was odd. With one yard to go to pay dirt, Oregon ran a read option. Bryan Bennett stuck the ball into Lyerla, but he wanted to keep it. Lyerla wasn't going to give it up, so Bennett pushed Lyerla outside left as they both held the ball while crossing the plain untouched.
How the Wildcats couldn't get a body on two guys stumbling forward is beyond me. Lyerla got credit for the TD after I can only assume one of the official stat crew members announced he had Lyerla on his fantasy team.
Oregon's speed took over from there. They quickly followed with a 55-yard touchdown reception by Bralon Addison and a 54-yard pick six by Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.
It doesn't matter who it is: When there is a Duck in the open field, no one is going to catch him.
This was an impressive showing for the Ducks as they demolished the 22nd-ranked team in the nation. There is a good chance that this win will propel the Ducks to the No. 2 spot in the polls on Monday.
Much of the Twitter buzz from this game centered on the early blown red-zone opportunities by the Wildcats. I think this fan summed up the first half succinctly with this tweet.
It's like Oregon is giving Arizona chances to catch up, and they are just refusing the chance.... WHAT— Elia Busey (@tanshorty94) September 23, 2012
Arizona had two blown fourth-and-goal opportunities, a blocked field goal and a Matt Scott interception on a pass nowhere near a receiver to account for their first-half red-zone misfires.
ESPN tweeted this out after Arizona's third blown red-zone trip, and it captures the Wildcats frustration and miscues.
While it is easy to place the prodigious red-zone struggles on Arizona, Oregon's defense deserves a big chunk of the credit. The Register-Guard's Rob Moseley was right on with this tweet.
Eye in the sky Ken Woody says Oregon's defensive line is dominating Arizona's O line. Most physical he's seen Ducks look, he says.— Rob Moseley (@DuckFootball) September 23, 2012
Oregon's defense was strong, aggressive and fast, and when backed into a corner, they played their best football.
Since this was a game featuring the fashion show that is the Oregon Ducks, I'm obligated to offer something on the Ducks' ever-changing uniforms. For this one they whipped out a flashy and slick chrome helmet.
They looked spectacular shining in the bright lights of this night game. Olympian Manteo Mitchell obviously agrees.
Oregon's helmet alone smashes EVERY other complete NCAA uniform— Manteo Mitchell (@ManteoMitchell) September 23, 2012
De'Anthony Thomas, RB: C
The electric sophomore running back didn't have an eye-popping stat line, but he certainly made his contributions.
Thomas had 10 carries in the first half for 50 yards, but he did have a fumble. Oregon went away from Thomas in the second half. He finished with 12 carries for 47 yards and two catches for 11 yards.
He made his greatest impact when he had a 38-yard punt return to set up Oregon's first scoring drive of the second half. That was the only opportunity he had to return a punt.
Marcus Mariota, QB: B+
Marcus Mariota had a nice game. He flashed his elusiveness, poise and for the most part, he made excellent decisions.
He went 11-for-22, 122 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in the first half, and ended the game 20-for-35 with 263 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Matt Scott, QB: D
QB Matt Scott entered this game as not just the team's leading passer, but also the second leading rusher. Oregon did a great job keeping him under wraps.
The good news? He threw two touchdown passes. The bad news? They were touchdowns for the wrong team. Yes, Scott threw two pick sixes.
He finished the first half 10-for-21 for 89 yards, no touchdowns and the costly interception in the red zone, which was not one of the pick sixes.
He finished 22-for-44 with 195 yards and no touchdowns (for the right team) and the three picks.
He was also held to just nine yards rushing.
Ka'Deem Carey, RB: B
Carey had nine carries for just 10 yards in what had to be a frustrating half of football.
Things got much better for Carey in the second half, but then again, the Ducks' interest in stopping the run waned as this one got out of hand.
He finished with 21 carries for 76 yards.