Wildcats to face pass-happy Ducks

By Kevin Clerici
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 8, 1996

Gregory Harris
Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA inside linebacker Mike Szlauko (44) and defensive lineman Daniel Greer (48) are just two members of the Wildcats' injury-riddled defense. While Greer is questionable for tomorrow's game against Oregon, Szlauko will probably play.


With Arizona having only four wins and Oregon three, it's hard to imagine either team being anxious to get back on the field.

Still, for players and coaches alike, there is nothing more frustrating than waiting for the next game.

"We just want to play this game. We want the chance to re-establish ourselves in the secondary after last week's nightmare," UA safety David Fipp said.

"There is nothing we can do about what is behind us. Let's just play," UA head coach Dick Tomey said.

For the Ducks, it's much of the same.

"A winning record is what we strive (for) every year. That is the most important thing," Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti said. "What matters is how strong you finish, not how you start. That is what we are trying to accomplish."

The Wildcats meet the Ducks at 2 p.m. tomorrow in Eugene, Ore. The game will be televised on tape delay by KTTU-TV (Channel 18) and broadcast by KNST (AM 790).

Arizona (4-4 overall, 2-3 in the Pacific 10 Conference) has turned things around all three times this season following a loss, but each of those contests were at home. Oregon (3-5, 0-5) has lost its last five games but has had a bye week to get ready.

"It is always the toughest week when the other team has a bye to prepare and you don't," Tomey said. "Oregon is as tough an assignment as we have had all year."

While Arizona did not have a bye, the Wildcat defense got a glimpse of what to expect after the Cal game - passing, passing, passing.

Oregon is tops in the conference in both passing offense (334.4 yards a game) and in total offense (490.6 yards a game), averaging more than 24 first downs in each outing. Oregon quarterback Tony Graziani led the Ducks to a 17-13 win last season in Tucson and has recovered from an early-season knee injury to retake the reins.

"Graziani is a heck of a QB," Tomey said. "Their offense in one of the most explosive in the league."

To have any success, the Wildcats have to get pressure on the southpaw play-caller. Against Cal, an injury-riddled UA defensive line was ineffective. The Wildcats allowed eight touchdown passes while recording only three sacks.

And the injuries don't seem go be getting any better. Senior Joe Salave'a has played with nagging injuries all season, as have Mike Szlauko and linebacker Jimmy Sprotte. Daniel Greer sustained an ankle injury at Cal and is questionable. Steve Tafua's left knee is likely going to keep him sidelined for the rest of the season. Rusty James, an offensive lineman, has filled in.

"We practiced without pads, to try and get the walking wounded able to practice," Tomey said.

"We know we need to get guys to the quarterback. He (Graziani) is going to get passes, but I am confident we will get it solved."

In tight football games, mistakes usually go hand in hand with losses. Arizona recovered three fumbles against Cal while managing to hold onto the ball the entire game. Arizona is currently plus-6 this season in that category. Oregon hopes to change that.

"Our team needs to make some breaks for ourselves," Bellotti said. "Good teams make things happen for themselves."

UA quarterback Keith Smith is coming off his best game to date, throwing for 418 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 84 yards and two more scores in the eight quarter fiasco at Berkeley. Oregon's secondary has been spread thin to the point that two redshirt freshmen will start.

"We are showing a better grasp all the time with Homer's (Smith, offensive coordinator) system," Tomey said. "Keith has played tremendous. The progress he has made with each game is amazing."