Ryan Katz Overcomes Losing James Rodgers
Oregon St. overcame Arizona, errors, officiating, injuries, and what has become the most hostile environment in the Pac-10, to knock off the ninth ranked Wildcats 29-27 Saturday night.
It's tempting to harp on all that went wrong, but there will be time for that in due course, and you can be sure Oregon St. coach Mike Riley will do so. Leaving 13 points on the field will lose a lot of games, especially on the road, and when facing ranked opponents.
But before delving into all that, and to a degree because of it, there's a lot of positives Oregon St. can take away from the win, only the fifth ever for the Beavers on the road against a top 10 team playing at home.
The biggest one is any win against Arizona is a big one. The ‘Cats are one rough, tough bunch. It's the third year in a row Oregon St. has gone down to the wire against them, and only the costly trips to Tucson resulted in wins.
Costly because both times the Rodgers brothers have ventured down there, one has come away with a serious injury. Jacquizz saw his season end two years ago in Tucson, and James may well have encountered the same fate, after a second quarter knee injury that left him on crutches. We probably won't know if it's a season ending injury until Oregon St. gets back to Corvallis, and an MRI is done, or if its something that the Beavers' senior leader can come back from later this fall.
"He grabbed me by the collar, on my shoulder pads, and I knew immediately that something was wrong with the side of my leg," Rodgers said afterwards. "I didn't feel it snap, and I didn't hear nothing, I just knew it was very tight. When I couldn't get up and walk, that's when I knew it was bad."
Oregon St. has a bye in two weeks, after next weeks' visit to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies.
If it is really serious, ironically, it could turn out to be a blessing that James suffered a concussion in the Boise St. game, and Riley held him out of last week's Arizona St. game. As a result of sitting out last week, this was only James' fourth game of the year, and therefore his red-shirt season is still applicable.
Before the injury, James set the tone, and was on pace for a monster game, well over 300 yards of total offense. As it was, he still had 7 catches for 102 yards, and a touchdown, and 158 yards of total offense. Despite having three catches and two touchdowns taken away.
Twice, balls ruled catches on the field were overturned by replays that at most raised legitimate questions about the ball being caught, or James getting a foot down in bounds. Which, along with another reversal, were clear misapplications of the replay rule (by a replay official who lives in Tucson, is an aluni of the University of Arizona, and is a major Wildcat booster/contributor), where there must be clear evidence that the call on the field is definitely wrong in order to change it. Not just the possibility that the call might be incorrect.
Oregon St. Athletic Director Bob DeCarolis said at halftime "I can't comment on the call, and by rule, I can't comment on the replay decision. I think anyone can read between the lines there."
And on the play where James was injured, what would have been the third long touchdown pass Ryan Katz threw in the first half, a penalty for Jordan Bishop being an ineligible receiver down field negated the touchdown catch.
The two Rodgers catches for scores being negated represented 11 points Oregon St. lost, as the first possession resulted in only a Justin Kahut field goal, and the second one, despite another big completion to Bishop for 31 yards, ended in Katz's first career interception, when Joseph Perkins collected an inexplicably bad throw in the end zone.
Katz continues to progress
To his credit, Katz shook off the error, and despite a few off-target throws, still had his best game yet. Fueled by an earlier 33 yard touchdown pass to James, and a 48 yard bomb to Marcus Wheaton, Katz went on to complete 30 of 42 passes, 71%, for 393 yards.
More importantly, in the fourth quarter, with Arizona within three points, Katz took Oregon St. on an 80 yard scoring drive that took 4:51 off the clock. Jacquizz Rodgers capped the drive with his only touchdown of the night, but given that Arizona had driven the ball with almost no resistance for a pair of long rushing touchdowns, one by Keola Antolin, who hurt the Beavers in last year's game, for a 33 yard touchdown, and one for a 41 yard score by Nic Grigsby, before the drive started, I noted that the drive would be when Oregon St. really found out what Katz is made of.
Considering that Arizona came into the game as the #2 team in the country in total defense, Katz' performance was especially impressive.
And it wasn't just with his arm. Katz ran the ball 8 times, and picked up three crucial first downs, as well as scoring a touchdown.
The Arizona defense, with a fierce front line anchored by wildman Brooks Reed, and Ricky Elmore, routinely drops their linebackers into underneath coverage. This leaves a void behind the initial rush, and Katz did a good job of reading that, and making something out of plays that had otherwise broken down.
Beaver receivers solid
Losing a 100 yard receiver before halftime normally derails a team's passing game, but in addition to James Rodgers' 102 yards, Wheaton also had 7 catches for 113 yards, and the 48 yard score. Joe Halahuni added 5 catches for 70 yards, including a 43 yard catch and run, aided by Wheaton's downfield blocking, on the Beavers' fourth quarter drive for the game winning score.
In all, Katz's 30 completions were spread across 9 receivers.
‘Quizz was held well under average, gaining only 83 yards on 25 carries, but managed 124 total yards, and punished Arizona defenders down the stretch. Just as Katz's performance has to be taken in context of the opponent, so to must ‘Quizzes'.
And ‘Quizz and company was effective enough for the Beavers to possess the ball more than 12 minutes more than the ‘Cats. Given how well Arizona moved the ball, it's worth a lot to not let them have a couple more possessions.
Defense Had Some Difficulties
Arizona rolled up over 540 yards of offense on the Oregon St. defense. Nick Foles completed 35 of 46 passes, for 440 yards, including a dozen to Juron Criner, for 179 yards, including a 45 yard first quarter touchdown.
And coming out of halftime, the Wildcats drove the length of the field on consecutive possessions for touchdowns.
Oregon St. did manage three sacks of Foles, and Suaesi Tuimaunei had what turned out to be a huge interception, picking off Foles inside the Beaver end zone to stop a drive that would have given Arizona a lead, something they never managed to take.
There continues to be too many broken tackles by opponents against Oregon St. defenders, and Mark Banker simply has to get that corrected if Oregon St. is to survive in the Pac-10.
Kahut thought Riley would kick him off the team after missing an extra point in Tucson two years ago, before he went on to win that game with a field goal as time expired. Two years later, Kahut clunked two extra points wide, despite the absence of any wind or field issues, which brought the lost points total to 13. Why that happened is a total mystery.
But it contributed to the contest going down to the last play, instead of still being a two touchdown lead even after Antolin's touchdown with 1:52 left.
Playing Rough and Tough
For all the challenges the game had, Oregon St. has to get credit for the fighting spirit they demonstrated. The loss of James Rodgers, possibly for the year, could have been too much to overcome, but it wasn't.
Center Alex Linnenkohl got considerable television attention for the nasty gash over his right eye that looked like something out of a heavyweight fight. Which come to think of it, it was.
Arizona has become a very tough out for Oregon St., but it isn't just the Beavers. The Ducks have had all kinds of trouble with the ‘Cats in recent years, needing double overtime to keep last year's Rose Bowl run alive. The year before was also a slugfest, and the year before that, a possible run to the BCS title game went down along with Dennis Dixon in Tucson.
The Huskies last two trips to Arizona were a 36-33 win and a 48-41 loss. Cal just lost 10-9. In '08, the ‘Cats beat a 10 win BYU team in the Las Vegas Bowl. Last year, Stanford, with Toby Gerhart, lost in Tucson 43-38. Even USC, in their 12-1 2008 campaign, could only manage a 17-10 win.
Arizona simply slugs it out all night, and seems to have a penchant for forcing opponents into a lot of errors. Any game against the ‘Cats is going to amount to a street fight, and usually with blood spilled, and people getting banged up.
That's by no means a knock on the ‘Cats, either. Rather, it's a credit to them. You have to know its going to be serious football when they come up on the schedule.
On To Seattle
Oregon St. (3-2, 2-0) moves on to Seattle next, to face a frustrated Washington Husky team that is 2-3 on the season, and 1-1 in the Pac-10, after losing tonight to Arizona St. for the second year in a row, this time by a 24-14 score.
The Beavers trail only third ranked (until they move up as a result of #1 Alabama's 35-21 loss at #19 South Carolina, the other upset of a top 10 team Saturday) Oregon (6-0, 3-0) in the Pac-10 race, after the Ducks downed Washington St. 43-23 in Pullman.
Oregon St. has beaten Washington six straight seasons, including a dominating 48-21 win last season, and 34-13 in their last trip to Seattle.
But against Jake Locker, another effort that spots a two touchdown point differential can't be allowed to happen. More progress on cleaning up the mistakes, with no drop off in the intensity demonstrated in the Tucson rumble, is a must.
For the moment though, it's a good night to be a Beaver.