TUCSON, Ariz. - Lost in the shadow of LaMichael James' record-setting performance and Oregon's 56 points was the fact that the Ducks' defense made one significant play against Arizona.
With Oregon leading 42-24 and Arizona taking back momentum with more than 12 minutes to play, two Ducks defensive linemen and a linebacker sacked UA quarterback Nick Foles for a 16-yard loss on fourth-and-goal at the UO 6.
Foles threw for 398 yards and three scores on 34 of 57 passing, and missed on some throws and watched receivers suffer some drops, or else the score of the game could have been much closer. But, at crunch time, the UO defense rose up, with D-linemen Dion Jordan and Terrell Turner sacking Foles with linebacker Josh Kaddu by their side.
"It came down to making plays and that's what we did," Jordan said. "They tried to get back their momentum. I had a feeling they were going to throw a screen pass. (Foles) held the ball and we had the chance to get up the field. The pocket collapsed on him and we made a play."
Still, Foles and his receivers racked up some great yardage and helped produce 31 points that could have easily been 52, if, in the first half: Foles doesn't overthrow Dan Buckner at midfield, Juron Criner doesn't drop Foles' pass at the UO goal line and the 'Cats turn their successful onsides kick into points at the end of the half. But, credit should also go to Turner, who sacked Foles on fourth down to finish the UA scoring threat just before halftime.
Surely, the UO coaches will be working with players on playing better defense. Yes, the Ducks held Arizona to 82 rushing yards on 35 carries, but the 'Cats don't possess too lethal of an attack on the ground; the three previous UO opponents had rushed for 643 yards. And, now Foles has lit up the UO pass defense.
"Realistically, stats don't matter," safety John Boyett said. "The only stat that matters is we won. They gave us their best effort."
He added: "We can improve on everything, run and pass defense. I would expect some changes, and we'll become a better defense until the very end. You build your foundation, keep building and see how good you can get."
• Foles impressed coach Chip Kelly, again.
"He's as good a quarterback as there is in the country," Kelly said. "Smart, tough, accurate, keeps plays alive. A great competitor. I'm glad we don't have to face him anymore."
• The Ducks have a bye week, which coincides with players starting classes. Oregon plays host to California at 6 p.m. Oct. 6.
"As a player you want to play every week," Boyett said. "We have to get used to our school schedule. That's part of being a student-athlete. Get the feel for that, get ready to play Cal."
• Tight end David Paulson had three catches against LSU, one against Nevada and none against Missouri State. He wanted to see the trend changed, and Paulson sensed in practice that he would get more opportunities against Arizona. Paulson had three catches and a touchdown, and had another TD called back because of penalty.
"It felt good to get going," he said.
Paulson had good things to say about UO's offense, which didn't need the passing game to post big numbers for the Ducks to win convincingly.
"We were on the same page as an offense, got our rhythm going, the tempo going," he said.
• The win over Arizona could certainly be characterized as a quality win, by virtue of the offense's output, the key defensive plays and the hostile environment at Arizona Stadium.
The Ducks were overrated to start the season, ranked top-5 in preseason polls, but they have improved in the past three weeks in their quest to win the Pac-12 and make the Rose Bowl. It seems like a long shot to not only get through the Pac-12 and go 11-1, but to make a return trip to the BCS National Championship game.
Only one team ranked ahead of No. 10 Oregon lost on Saturday, and it was No. 8 Texas A and M, 30-29 to No. 7 Oklahoma State.
"It's always good to win a Pac-12 game, especially on the road, coming in here and playing the way we did," Paulson said. "It's something we can build on for our team."
• Quarterback Darron Thomas feels the offense is back on track after the LSU game, having put 69, 56 and 56 points on the board in the past three games.
"That was the first game," he said, of LSU. "You have to compete each week. We've amped up our preparing."
• Thomas showed some real leadership on the first play of the game, when an Arizona defender horse-collar tackled him. Thomas, momentarily staying on the turf, popped back up emphatically and got right back to work.
"I felt all right, I just wanted to be competitive," he said. "Not stay on the ground, show my team I'm rallying and ready to go. It set the tone for the offense."
• This and that: Offensive guard Carson York says he felt fine, and returned to the game after hurting his knee against Arizona. ... Linebacker Michael Clay did not play; his status is unknown, as UO doesn't talk about injuries and doesn't produce an injury report. ... Of the 56-point output against the Wildcats, York said: "I don't think anybody expected to hang a 'half century' on them. There were stupid mistakes or we could have capitalized even more. We could have put them away at the start of the second half. Moving forward, we can capitalize on those situations, and hopefully there's a higher ceiling than we're at right now." ... Linebackers Dewitt Stuckey had 10 tackles (eight solo, and also a sack) and Kiko Alonso nine (eight solo). Boyett had three pass breakups. ... With their five sacks, the Ducks exceeded their three-game total going into the game (four). ... Oregon has won 13 consecutive league games, breaking the record of 12 in a row in 1999-2000. ... Thomas has thrown at least one TD pass in all 17 career starts. ... The Ducks had 415 yards rushing, a week after notching 416 against Missouri State. ... The Ducks were 8-for-8 in red zone opportunities, all touchdowns.