TUCSON, Ariz. — Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas said earlier this week that it was no big deal to play in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks had already done that. The national championship was their goal.
Now both are off the table, and their four-year run of playing in the BCS looks cooked, too. A lower-tier bowl could be all that’s left.
No. 5 Oregon started slow and had trouble containing Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey all day, bumbling its way to a 42-16 loss to the Wildcats on Saturday that knocked the Ducks out of the national championship picture and possibly a BCS bowl.
“It hurts,” Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota said. “I haven’t been blown out like this in my life.
It was hard to see this one coming.
Arizona was coming off consecutive home losses, the most disappointing last week’s toe-stubbing against Washington State.
Oregon had a raced through most of its schedule, a loss to Stanford putting a dent in its national championship hopes, but a Rose Bowl bid still on the table.
The Wildcats (7-4, 4-3 Pac-12) turned the tables on the fast-paced Ducks, eschewing the normal slow-it-down routine most teams play against them by keeping their foot on the throttle.
With Carey bursting through the line to punish defenders and B.J. Denker dinking and dashing with a variety of fakes, the Wildcats jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead and kept going for their first win over a top-five team since knocking off No. 2 Oregon in 2007.
Oregon (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12) gave the Wildcats plenty of help with three turnovers and turning it over twice more on downs.
Carey was the workhorse for Arizona as he has been all season, carrying a school-record 48 times for 206 yards and four touchdowns to break Art Luppino’s career record of 48 total touchdowns set from 1953-56. Carey also reached 3,913 career yards rushing, breaking the mark of 3,824 set by Trung Canidate from 1996-99.
Denker threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 102 more and Arizona had 304 yards rushing, a season-high against Oregon.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Denker, who was 19 of 22 passing. “This is a crazy win for our program, for our coaching staff, for our players, for our seniors. Everything went great today.”
Not for Oregon.
The normally high-flying Ducks couldn’t keep up in the Wildcats’ final home game of the season.
Clinging to national-title hopes, Oregon sputtered most of the day, showing only flashes of the offensive brilliance that had them No. 2 in total offense and third in scoring entering the game.
Mariota threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns, but also had two interceptions, his first since Nov. 17, 2012, against Stanford.
The Ducks outgained Arizona 506-482 in total yards, but couldn’t overcome all the uncharacteristic miscues to lose consecutive road games for the first time since 2007.
“We just have to think about what we did wrong and how we can come out with more motivation,” Oregon receiver Josh Huff said. “I’m not saying we weren’t motivated enough, but we just came out flat.
Mariota’s first interception came on a spectacular play, kick-starting Arizona for the monumental upset.
It came on Oregon’s first play from scrimmage, when Bralon Addison dropped a pass near the sideline. Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson snared the carom and flipped it back to teammate Scooby Wright as he was falling out of bounds. It ended Mariota’s Pac-12 record streak of passes without an interception at 353 and Carey followed with a 6-yard touchdown run.
Oregon’s next drive ended with another drop, this one by Thomas on what would have been a big third-down gain. Arizona followed with another touchdown, a 9-yard pass from Denker to Nate Phillips along the left sideline to make it 14-0.
Denker hit Terrence Miller on a 5-yard touchdown pass and Arizona’s offense ripped off 59 yards in 42 seconds for a 1-yard touchdown run by Carey that made it 28-9 at halftime.
On offense, the Ducks needed over eight minutes to get their first first down and when they finally got a drive going, had to settle for Matt Wogan’s 33-yard field goal after a holding call against tight end Pharaoh Brown negated Mariota’s 6-yard TD run.
Oregon raced down for a 1-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to Brown in the second quarter, but the final two drives of the half ended in failure: Thomas Tyner lost a fumble and Mariota came up short on fourth-and-2 when he was stripped of the ball.
“Obviously, how we started, in every phase, that is 100 percent my fault,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. “I have to figure out exactly which levers to pull and which buttons to push on.”
Once word of the upset-in-the-making spread around campus, the student section began to fill up.
And the Wildcats finished it off, answering a 2-yard touchdown catch by Huff in the fourth quarter with a 75-yard drive that Carey capped with his 49th career TD, a 2-yard run that put Arizona up 42-16.
“Those seniors will have a memory that will last them a long time,” Rodriguez said.
And leave the Ducks with one that will sting for quite a while.