By Eric Wein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
EUGENE, Ore. Ä Steve McLaughlin hoped he could turn around his team's misfortune with a dramatic attempt.
While standing on the sideline during the Arizona football team's final drive against Oregon, the UA kicker just wanted his team to get to Oregon's 42 yard line or closer. From there, McLaughlin would have been able to take a stab at a 60-yard desperation field goal that, if successful, would have translated into a huge win for the Wildcats.
But he never got the chance to try it. Instead, he suffered from an uneasiness in his stomach after his team was shut out in the second half en route to a 10-9 loss to Oregon 10-9 at Autzen Stadium.
"I like to contribute what I can," said McLaughlin, whose career-long is 53 yards. "Unfortunately you aren't going to win games just with field goals."
The Wildcats (6-2, 4-1) suffered their first conference loss of the season by failing to move past midfield in the second half.
Favorable officiating and few costly mistakes helped Arizona control the first half.
UA quarterback Dan White appeared to fumble into the Ducks' possession on the UA's 11-yard line in the second quarter. But officials ruled him down even though it looked as if he lost the ball before his knee touched the artificial turf.
In the final seconds of the first half, it looked like Oregon cornerback Herman O'Berry picked off White's pass in the back of the end zone. He was ruled out depite his knee appearing to land in bounds. That led to McLaughlin's third and final field goal as Arizona took a 9-0 lead going into halftime.
"I told them at halftime that we needed somebody to step up in some phase of the game and make one play to get us back in it," Oregon coach Rich Brooks said. "We got that."
First, Oregon quarterback Danny O'Neil led the Ducks back into it with a 70-yard drive in their second possession of the third quarter, resulting in a field goal to close the gap 9-3.
Oregon had the ball on a critical fourth and five in the fourth quarter. O'Neil
appeared to throw incomplete but a late flag charged Mike Scurlock with pass interference and gave the Ducks a key first down. The crowd had booed the officials all afternoon for not calling Arizona's cornerbacks for such violations. With their drive continued, Oregon scored the game's only touchdown with a 15-yard pass to tight end Josh Wilcox, giving the Ducks the 10-9 lead.
When Arizona got the ball back, it struggled to move with mostly running.
"I don't know why we were playing conservative," tailback Ontiwaun Carter said. "I felt we could do a little more.
"Our philosophy has always traditionally been conservative. We didn't have anything to lose. 'We're up, mix it up.'"
But the Wildcats' passing game wasn't doing much better. White (11 of 27, 135 yards) struggled as the pocket closed in and his receivers were usually well-covered.
"For us, continuing to try to pass protect was too difficult," Tomey said.
After getting the ball on their own 41 with 5:59 left, the Wildcats made their biggest error of the day.
In shotgun formation, the snap from center Hicham El-Mashtoub drifted to White's right and he fell on it, putting Arizona back 19 yards, and practically destroying the potential to move down into McLaughlin's range.
Noise from 36,760 yelling fans made it difficult to hear.
"It was somewhat of a factor," White said. "They can't hear what I'm saying. He thought I said 'go'. Every little noise you think might be the count."
El-Mashtoub refused to talk about it afterwards but Tomey had an explanation.
"The center said a defensive lineman called the snap count," Tomey said. "He thought he heard something. One thing about shotgun is it can be difficult to hear. Those things happen."
Arizona's offense was upset at coming up empty Ä not being able to score a touchdown and getting just two first downs in the second half.
"The offense needed to step up," wide receiver Richard Dice said. "We got down near the endzone and we should have punched it in at least twice."
The enthusiasm Arizona had gained two weeks ago against Washington State in a 10-7 win seemed lost Saturday. Another green-uniformed squad downed the Wildcats.
In the Associated Press Top 25 poll, the UA fell from No. 11 to No. 18. Oregon, which was previously unranked, is now ranked 21st.
Read Next Article