Rodriguez downplays revenge motive
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez admits his team has prepared for opponents with revenge in mind.
The latest was Oregon State, and the Wildcats exacted revenge on a loss at Corvallis last year with a 49-28 rout last weekend. It was another game in which sophomore phenom QB Khalil Tate led the way.
Well, look who Arizona has up next — it's Oregon, 4 p.m. Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
The last time the teams met was in the 2014 Pac-12 title game, which the Ducks won big-time, 51-13, en route to a College Football Playoff appearance. The Ducks, in fact, gained their own revenge in the Pac-12 title affair, having dropped a home game to the Wildcats earlier in the season.
"That was so long ago. These are different teams," Rodriguez says, of playing up the revenge factor.
Arizona (7-3, 5-2 Pac-12) has won five of its past six games since Tate's emergence as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate.
The Ducks (5-5, 2-5) are trying to win one more game for bowl eligibility, and they might have QB Justin Herbert back to lead them for the first time since Sept. 30, when he went out with a broken collarbone.
Oregon's two remaining games, which include Oregon State on Nov. 25, are at home.
"It's going to be a tough road environment. Colorado was like that," says Rodriguez, referencing the first win of the Tate era, in which he ran for an NCAA QB-record 327 yards and four scores. "We'll have to prepare for that. It'll be loud and intense.
"There's a lot at stake; every game we play elevates our bowl status. ... It's our big week. We have to stay poised. Our guys have stayed focused all year, I wouldn't expect it to be any different."
• Tate already has established the Pac-12 record for quarterback rushing yards. He has 1,293 (11.6 per carry), with 11 touchdowns, and he has eight TD passes to go with 61.9 percent passing. He does have six interceptions.
The Wildcats have some other athletic skill players, including running backs J.J. Taylor and Nick Wilson. And backup QB Brandon Dawkins, had he not gotten injured, might be putting up some prolific numbers as the starter.
Arizona possesses an experienced offensive line, which helps the 'Cats run their explosive and efficient version of the spread offense.
The Wildcats ran for a school-record 534 yards against Oregon State. Tate had 206 yards and two scores on 16 carries, and Taylor and Wilson each topped 100 yards.
"It starts with the big guys up front. They're a really hard-working group," Rodriguez says. "Tight ends do a good job of blocking, and receivers are overlooked in how they block."
• Says Rodriguez, of Tate, a 6-2, 210-pounder from Serra High and Inglewood, California: "He's a competitive guy and a competitive runner."
Tate is quick with his moves and fast with breakaway speed, even when defenders appear to have pursuit angles on him. He's powerful and tough to bring down.
"He's faster because he's in better shape and 20 pounds lighter than last year," Rodriguez says.
Despite being the No. 2 QB coming out of training camp, Tate is being mentioned in postseason awards talk. He's a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award.
Tate played in seven games last season, rushing for 237 yards and one touchdown on 49 carries (4.8 average), and went 18 of 45 (40 percent) for 243 yards, with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
• Oregon players and coaches walked away from their 38-3 defeat by Washington disappointed because of the way they lost — without a touchdown for the first time since 2007, and completely outclassed by their rival.
What was the Ducks' emphasis during their bye last week?
"Get better at all the things that cause us to lose like we did," coach Willie Taggart says. "A lot of corrections need to be made."
Taggart says the culture is still being changed, even 10 games into his tenure.
"A lot has changed. We're still in the process of doing it," he says. "It doesn't just happen overnight. Guys are working hard doing the things we ask them to do."
• Here's how the Ducks rank in the Pac-12 in some major categories through 10 games: Scoring offense (32.3 points per game, seventh), scoring defense (30.1 points allowed, eighth), total offense (428.7 yards, sixth), total defense (377.7, fourth), rushing offense (255.2 yards, second, more than 90 yards per game behind Arizona), rushing defense (129, second), pass offense (173.5, 11th) and pass defense (248.7, ninth).
Other notable stats: Net punting (33.4 yards, 11th); sacks (30, tied for third); third-down conversions (38.5 percent, 11th); fourth-down conversions (23.1, 12th); penalties (87, 788 yards, 78.8 per game, all 12th).
The fourth-down conversion rate is 124th in the country (of 129 FBS teams). The number of penalties and yardage are last in the country, and 78.8 penalty yards per game ranks 127th.
• Pac-12 standings, by overall record: Washington State, USC, 9-2; Washington, 8-2; Stanford, Arizona, 7-3; Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon, California, Utah, 5-5 each; Colorado, 5-6; Oregon State, 1-9.
Where could Oregon go to a bowl game? Eleven Pac-12 teams could become bowl eligible, and the Pac-12 champ is not likely going to the College Football Playoff.
One would think only the Pac-12 champ would be picked for a New Year's Six bowl game (probably the Fiesta). That would leave the second-place team headed to the Alamo Bowl, and five others heading to (in order of selection) the Holiday, Foster Farms, Sun, Las Vegas and Cactus. After that, some at-large bowl berths would be up for grabs.