By Brett Fera
CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA freshman quarterback Richard Kovalcheck (8) throws downfield after relieving starter Kris Heavner in the 4th quarter Saturday.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, October 18, 2004
EUGENE, Ore. - It didn't take long for the Oregon offense to break down the Arizona football team's much-improved defensive unit Saturday in Eugene, Ore., and it took even less time for the UA offense to prove it still has a long way to go.
UA backup quarterback Richard Kovalcheck provided the only spark the Wildcats would see offensively, but it turned out to be too little, too late as the Ducks shut down the visiting Wildcats, 28-14 at Autzen Stadium.
With Oregon (3-3, 2-1 Pacific 10 Conference) leading 28-0, Kovalcheck, who replaced ineffective starter Kris Heavner early in the fourth quarter, put Arizona (1-5, 0-3) in the end zone twice in the game's final two minutes, ultimately leaving head coach Mike Stoops with a tough decision come next week's matchup with No. 7 California at Arizona Stadium.
"We weren't moving the football with Kris. We haven't moved it consistently at different parts of the year," UA head coach Mike stoops said. "We need to upgrade our ability to throw the ball. We have guys open, we just have an inability to get them the ball."
"He did a hell of a job. He stepped in, in some tough situations and made some nice throws," said UA offensive coordinator Mike Canales of Kovalcheck's play. "He made a few mistakes obviously. A couple of plays didn't look exactly right, but I'm extremely proud of him."
Heavner managed to complete just nine of 24 passes for 79 yards through three quarters, while Kovalcheck connected on five of 10 attempts for 77 yards and a touchdown. Heavner was intercepted twice - both by OU's Aaron Gipson - while Oregon's defense managed to pick off Kovalcheck's second collegiate pass attempt, a long downfield throw with the Wildcats backed up to their own 5-yard line.
"I thought it was pretty cool to come in at that time of the game because that's probably the hardest it's going to get," Kovalcheck said.
Heavner was the first Wildcat player to congratulate Kovalcheck after the redshirt freshman threw his first career touchdown pass, a 21-yard strike to receiver Brad Wood.
"That's just the way I was raised," Heavner said. "If stuff's not going your way, you just keep your head up. Rich is a hell of a player. I always thought he was a great player, and he got a chance today and played well."
The catch was not only Wood's first touchdown as a Wildcat, but his first reception for Arizona as well.
"I was just hoping that we could have come out with a victory, but things just didn't work out for us," Wood said. "(Richard) stepped up in a pressure situation. Oregon has a loud stadium. He stepped up well, handled the pressure and delivered me my first catch and my first touchdown."
Arizona never recovered after giving up a touchdown on the Ducks' first series of the game, a 12-play, 86-yard drive capped off by a one-yard run from tailback Terrence Whitehead. Oregon junior quarterback Kellen Clemens hit on all five passes he threw on the drive and finished the game completing 21 of 31 attempts for 336 yards and a touchdown.
"You know you have to bring your A-game," said UA junior safety Darrell Brooks of trying to defend against Clemens. "He's a tremendous quarterback. When he's on his game, he can get the ball anywhere."
Clemens' favorite target of the day, Demetrius Williams, never hit the end zone, but did manage to haul in nine catches for 153 yards. Williams caught 21 balls over his last two games after catching 12 passes against Washington State a week prior.
"We didn't finish as strong as we would've liked," said UO coach Mike Bellotti. "We were up 28-0 and we probably should have had a few more scores, but we tried to play everyone on defense."
Arizona couldn't capitalize on a pair of red zone opportunities in the first half, failing to reach paydirt after failing to convert on a fourth-and-two play from the Oregon 3-yard line and after Heavner threw an interception in the end zone late in the second quarter.
Stoops and Canales were both mum on whether they thought Heavner or Kovalcheck would start under center, but they did add that the situation would be evaluated this week.
"We'll evaluate it when we get back. We'll look at both quarterbacks," Stoops said.
Arizona hits the second part of its schedule next week when it takes on No. 7 Cal as part of Family Weekend festivities on the UA campus.