Dixon and the Ducks Fall in Tucson to Arizona, 34-24

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Dixon and the Ducks Fall in Tucson to Arizona, 34-24

Arizona cornerback Antoine Cason was a big reason the Wildcats stunned the second-ranked Ducks.

So another number two ranked team has fallen after second-ranked Oregon lost to unranked Arizona 34-24 last night in Tucson. I didn t see this one coming. Not for a second. Sure, Oregon was ranked in the cursed number two slot in the BCS standings, but I thought they were different. In a college football season where the word upset has become a weekly occurrence, I thought the Ducks were above all of that. They were a team of destiny.

Well after last night s loss that team of destiny is no longer dreaming of Waterford crystal, but instead dreaming of making it to the Rose Bowl, where Arizona State, not Oregon, controls their own destiny. "The national championship thing was fine while it lasted. The reality is we're still always trying to get the conference championship and the very best bowl game," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said of the Rose Bowl. Oregon could still land a BCS at-large berth, but it will definitely need some help from Arizona State if they want to be smelling roses at the end of the season.

Oregon was the team who was supposed to win this trophy, the BCS National Championship.

After I watched Oregon breeze past Arizona State 35-22 a few weeks ago, my mind was made up. Quarterback Dennis Dixon and the high-flying Oregon Duck offensive attack were a team of destiny. The fleet footed Dennis Dixon ran Oregon s zone-read offense with such efficiency and ease and had already made his way into my heart as my 2007 Heisman Trophy winner. Surely Mike Belotti and company would be hoisting the coveted Waterford crystal football skyward after they won the BCS national championship in New Orleans.

Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon says goodbye to Spencer Larson and hello to the end zone!

For a brief moment last night, the Ducks national championship hopes appeared to be alive and well. Early in the first quarter, Dixon ran the Ducks bread-and-butter to perfection, faking a handoff to Jonathan Stewart from the shotgun formation and watching the Arizona defense collapse to the inside. The zone-read play worked Dixon busted it to the outside, turned on the jets and coasted to the end zone for a 39 yard touchdown. After the Ducks converted the two point conversion on a running play, Oregon was up 8-0. Life was good in Tucson for the Ducks.

Arizona QB Willie Tuitama loves the deep ball more than a fat kid loves cake.

After cornerback Jairus Byrd intercepted an overthrown Willie Tuitama pass during Arizona s next possession, it appeared as if life were about to get even better for the Ducks. The Oregon offense moved the ball to the Arizona 4 yard line after backup running back Derrick Jones cruised through the Wildcat defense for a 26 yard gain. Dixon and the Ducks were knocking on the door again and we weren t even six minutes into this one. It had all the makings of a beat down in the desert. Then, after what happened on the next play, I got a strange feeling it wasn t going to be the Ducks night. Dixon fired a pass that hit receiver Derrick Jones in the hands, but bounced off him and into the awaiting hands of Arizona safety Nate Ness. He then raced down the sideline and was eventually tackled at the Arizona 45 yard line.

From there it only took four plays as Arizona quarterback Willie I m in love with the deep ball Tuitama connected with receiver Mike Thomas for a 34 yard touchdown strike, making the game 8-7 with 8:13 left in the 1st quarter.

On the next Oregon offensive drive, the play happened that will always make me and many other college football fans wonder, What could have been? If the Ducks dream season was going to end, then it was only fitting that it happened on a zone-read play, a formation Oregon and Dennis Dixon had run to perfection during the 2007 college football season.

Quarterback Dennis Dixon lies on the ground in pain after he tweaked his left knee.

Quarterback Dennis Dixon faked the handoff and raced to his left, then tried to cut back to his right, but his left knee buckled. He fell to the turf at the Arizona 21 yard line. Dixon was rolling on the ground in pain, clutching the knee that he first injured in Oregon s November 3rd contest at Arizona State. When Dixon went down, so did Oregon s chances of winning the game and their hopes of winning a national championship.

When the ESPN cameras started showing the Oregon back-up quarterback aka Brady I m ten times worse than my brother Ryan ever was Leaf on the sidelines, Oregon Duck fans everywhere cringed in fear. I was hoping that somehow another quarterback would magically appear on the field instead of Leaf. Anything, but Brady Leaf, I thought to myself. An emergency quarterback, a true freshman, please just put somebody out there instead of Brady Leaf. Hell, even freakish running back Jonathan Stewart under center would ve been a better quarterback than Leaf. They handed the ball off to him so many times they might as well just had him play QB, because the Ducks weren t fooling anybody with their zone-read play. Leaf can t run very well at all in the first place and late in the game was trying to run it with a sore leg. Arizona s coaches even started yelling at their players, telling them to not even worry about Leaf, to go after Stewart.

Oregon back-up quarterback Brady Leaf is one of the worst quarterbacks in the NCAA.

Of course, I was dreading the worst. I knew it was going to happen sooner or later and then with the Ducks clinging to a 11-10 advantage, Brady Leaf pulled a Brady Leaf. His errant pass found the awaiting arms of all-world cornerback Antoine Cason, who breezed down the sideline 42 yards for a touchdown to give Arizona the 17-11 advantage. To Brady s credit, his receiver actually fell down on the play, but he shouldn t attempt even to make throws in such tight spaces, when he lacks the ball velocity to complete them.

After another Oregon offensive drive stalled(surprising I know), Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama once again proved to the nation how much his heart flutters when he gets to sling the rock deep as he found receiver Mike Thomas for a 46 yard touchdown strike. That broke it open and it was now 24-11 Wildcats. The rout was on in the desert, but the Ducks were on the wrong end of it.

Arizona cornerback Antoine Cason gets my gameball because he made the biggest plays.

The Wildcats piled on the points once again when All-American cornerback Antoine Cason fielded a punt and scooted his way down the sideline for a 56 yard touchdown to blow the game open completely, 31-11 Wildcats. It wasn t even halftime yet.

Oregon quarterback Brady Leaf is painful to watch.

I was furiously yelling at the television for the rest of the game whenever Oregon was on offense. An offensive attack that was one of the most efficient and effective in the country with Dennis Dixon under center became downright anemic when Brady Leaf was in the same position. An offense that averaged over 42 points per game was held 18 points below its season average as Brady Leaf continued to miss receiver after receiver. He struggled to complete more than 50 percent of his passes, completing only 22 of his 46 passes for a mere 163 yards and 2 interceptions. Brady was simply Brady out there, looking dazed and confused. He never sets his feet when he drops back to pass and his ball doesn t have any kind of velocity.

I think I d rather have a root canal than watch Brady Leaf try and move an offense down the field. Somehow he managed to move the Ducks offense down the field to score a touchdown in the 4th quarter, making the score 24-31 Arizona with 7:31 left in the game. Don t worry, he was helped by a Wildcat defender who jumped offsides when Oregon had the ball, 3rd and 7 from the Arizona 20.

Kudos to Oregon s backup running back Andre Crenshaw, who had a touchdown run late in the 4th quarter to make it interesting, 31-24. Arizona tacked on another field goal to make it 34-24 and of course Oregon didn t get remotely close to scoring late in the 4th quarter when they needed it the most. Why you ask? Because Brady Leaf once again sailed a ball into the awaiting arms of Arizona safety Nate Ness, who was forced out of bounds. The game was unofficially over at that point and the sea of red filled the edges of the filled as red-clad Arizona fans prepared to storm the field. The fitting end to the game came when Brady Leaf threw yet another incomplete pass and a sea of red swarmed the field in Tucson to celebrate one of the biggest wins in Arizona football history.

Arizona fans swarm the field to celebrate one of the biggest wins in Wildcat football history.

News and notes ESPN s SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt was urging fans to lay off Brady, because he s in college, but I don t buy that philosophy. If you re getting paid to go to school and play football, then you are worthy of all the criticism and fame you get. That s just the nature of the game. If you don t want to get criticized and be put under the microscope, then don t play Division 1 football. As Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins so eloquently put it, Go play intramurals brother! I like Scott Van Pelt a lot and he s actually one of my favorite commentators on ESPN, but that is a point where we definitely disagree.

What game were the refs watching on Thursday night?

Almighty zebra: One thing the commentators on ESPN were noting was how bad the officiating was during this game. I agree and it was some of the worst officiating I ve seen in my 23 years of existence. The refs missed a blatant facemask penalty when Oregon defensive end Nick Reed tried to tackle an Arizona offensive player, but instead came up with a fist full of facemask, yanking the players head in an awkard fashion towards the turf. The refs also missed a block-in-the back by an Arizona player when Antoine Cason returned the punt for a touchdown. There was also another facemask penalty the refs missed earlier in the game. I could write a novel about all the bad calls, but one they actually got right was when they ruled that quarterback Willie Tuitama was down before fumbling the ball on a botched handoff exchange. I m amazed they got that call right. Hey what can you say I guess even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.

Of course, the all-time worst officiated football game I ve ever seen was when the Ohio Bobcats faced the Akron Zips last year in Peden Stadium for the MAC East title. Something tells me those zebras were wearing Bobcat boxers that day.

Running back Jonathan Stewart will likely be a first round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Injury report: Stud running back Jonathan Stewart left the game in the 4th quarter with an unspecified injury. Clearly, if Oregon wants any chance of winning any of the remaining games on their slate, they need Dixon or Stewart to the return to the lineup, at least one of them. The Oregon offense won t be able to move the chains without both of them. The Oregon offensive attack has been centered around Dixon and Stewart all season long. I can t imagine Oregon winning either of their last two games without them. Lost in all the stats of this game was the courageous play of running back Jonathan Stewart, who did everything he could to carry the Oregon offense on his back. The zone-read play really wasn t fooling anybody and they fed the rock to Stewart nearly every other play late in the game. I agree with the play-calling though, because Stewart was the Ducks only hope of getting back in the game. He racked up 236 all-purpose yards for the contest, 131 rushing yards, 18 receiving yards, and 87 kick return yards. Those are impressive numbers folks and exactly why Stewart will be so highly coveted come the 2008 NFL Draft, where he will likely be a first round selection.

Game ball: The game ball in this one goes to senior All-American cornerback Antoine Cason. The standout cornerback was well-known to college football junkies and I was happy for him because now he ll get the national recognition he deserves as one of the nation s top cover corners. He had two touchdowns, a 56 yard punt return for a touchdown and a 42 yard interception return for a touchdown. He had a monster night on defense as well, racking up 7 tackles and 5 pass breakups. He just proved to the nation that he was indeed worthy of being on all of the preseason first-team All-American lists.

Arizona linebacker Spencer Larson was a man possessed on Thursday night, racking up 16 tackles.

Arizona linebacker Spencer Larson also impressed me with his performance in this game. Now more people will certainly remember him after his performance last night against the Ducks. He racked up 16 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, and one sack. Simply monster numbers for the 6 1, 240-pounder.

Oregon cornerback Walter Thurmond III is one of the best cover corners in college football.

Pass Defense: Oregon s pass defense impressed me very much in this game and while they may have gotten beat at times, they made plays on several balls and broke up a lot of passes. Without the likes of Patrick Chung, Jairus Byrd, and Walter Thurmond III making all the plays they did throughout the game, the score to this one could ve been a lot worse in my opinion. Byrd led all Oregon cornerbacks with 3 pass breakups on the evening.

Speaking of Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama: I don t think I ve seen a quarterback since Jeff George, love to throw the deep ball quite as much as Willie did last night. I like to see the love for that deep ball myself, but Willie son, there is this thing called a screen pass and you can actually move the ball down the field. Just raise a banner in Arizona, Willie Tuitama has a huge crush on the deep ball. He loves it. I think he ll be good, but he s going to have to learn that you re actually allowed to throw the ball under 20 yards. If he stays smitten with the deep ball like he is, he can kiss his chances of playing in the pros goodbye.

Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama says, "Let me throw that ball deep coach!"

Note to Jesse Herman: Jesse, the head of deathrattlesports.com warned me before the Oregon game that anything could happen and reminded me that Arizona thrashed the Ducks last season. I scoffed at such ideas and still thought Dennis Dixon and the Ducks would be dreaming of Waterford crystal after the Arizona game. At this point, they will be lucky if they are smelling Roses at the end of the season. I was wrong Jesse, you were right. Of course, we all know this would ve been a drastically different game had quarterback Dennis Dixon not gone down with an injury, but this is the game of football and injuries happen all the time. The team must overcome them. This was one injury the injury-plagued Ducks just wouldn t be able to overcome, we all knew it.

INTERESTING STATS OF THE NIGHT: Oregon ran 97 offensive plays as opposed to Arizona s 69! The Ducks also outgained the Wildcats offensively, 463 yards to 322. That s what turning the ball over three times will do to you, Oregon.

That s it for now feel free to drop me an e-mail at wadepeery@yahoo.com if you wish.

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