After Arizona conceded 55 points to Oregon last year, the Wildcats' coaches might be tempted to destroy the game film.
TUCSON, Ariz. — After Arizona conceded 55 points to Oregon last year, the Wildcats' coaches might be tempted to destroy the game film.
Instead, they're studying it with their players, hoping to find clues to stopping the 11th-ranked Ducks when they visit Arizona Stadium on Saturday night.
"There's a lot we can learn off of last year's game," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. "We're going to need to."
It's a painful lesson.
Oregon's 55 points is the most allowed by Arizona in Mike Stoops' six seasons in the desert. But Arizona's coaches are breaking the game into two halves, if only to maintain their sanity as they brace for the Ducks' invasion.
In the first half last year, the Ducks scored 45 points. Only three teams — No. 1 USC in 2004, No. 8 LSU in 2006 and No. 8 California in 2007 — have scored that many points in an entire game against Arizona during Stoops' tenure.
In the second half, Arizona limited Oregon to a touchdown and a field goal. Down 48-17, Arizona rallied to within 48-45 before the Ducks salted the game away on a 40-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount, who had yet to become a national household name.
"When you look at the first half of last year's game, they got us moving all over the place and really (we) got a little discombobulated in that first half," Stoops said this week. "And then we finally settled down. We didn't make any major adjustments at halftime. We just started to play with a little more focus and discipline."
Oregon's coaches are picking apart the film to try to figure out what Arizona might throw at them in the rematch.
"Are we going to see what we saw in the first half or what we saw in the second half?" Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "That's the chess match that goes on with the game — what do they keep from last year's game and what do they add new?"
Arizona's coaches aren't tipping their hand.
"I think we have to change some things up and not show them the exact same looks in how we defend them," said Arizona defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, Mike's younger brother.
The Wildcats will try to learn as much as they can from film because few teams can simulate Oregon's offense in practice. It's difficult for the scout team to run the scheme as efficiently as the Ducks do, or at the same speed.
Arizona State discovered that last weekend, when its usually stout defense gave up 31 points in the first half at Autzen Stadium. The Sun Devils gave up only a touchdown and two field goals in the second half of a 44-21 Oregon victory.
"Until you get used to it for a quarter or two, it's really hard," ASU coach Dennis Erickson said. "First of all, you have to gauge the speed of what's going on early in the game, because the speed of the game is different than in practice. And if you're out on the field very long, you get tired at the end."
This much is obvious: the Wildcats have to do a better job of tackling quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, whose deft play fakes are the heart of the Oregon attack.
"Just hit him," Wildcats cornerback Trevin Wade said. "Let him know we're going to be there."
Masoli set the tone a year ago by breaking a 66-yard touchdown run on the third play of the game.
The Ducks tacked on another quick TD on Patrick Chung's 31-yard interception return less than a minute later, but Arizona answered quickly, and late in the first quarter Oregon led only 14-10.
That's when it all fell apart for the Wildcats.
Starting with Masoli's 44-yard touchdown pass to Terence Scott, the Ducks put up 34 points in a span of 17:39.
By the time that run ended, Oregon led 48-17 with 12:46 to go in the third quarter.
The game appeared over to everyone but the Wildcats. They reeled off four straight touchdowns — three by running back Keola Antolin — and whittled the deficit to 48-45 with 6:38 to play.
The Wildcats could come no closer. Blount romped for a score with 3:38 to go, and Arizona was finished. It was Oregon's fourth TD of 40 or more yards that day.
The Wildcats looked at the stat sheet and wondered what happened.
The Ducks had the ball for only 18:14. Arizona ran more plays (98 to 57), gained more yards (527 to 504) and had more first downs (30 to 18).
The game film provides plenty of clues to the meltdown. Mark Stoops said he saw many plays where the Wildcats had men in the right position only to miss tackles.
"What frustrated me last year in the first half of that game was plays we should have defended and didn't," Mark Stoops said. "That's what's so hard."