EUGENE, Ore. - The Arizona Wildcats started jumping two hours before Friday's game against top-ranked Oregon, their team bus rocking back and forth in the Autzen Stadium parking lot. They strutted during the opening kickoff, dancing to an unheard rhythm.
When the UA practically cartwheeled into the locker room with a rare halftime lead, the Wildcats' energy was so raw, so crackling, they practically radiated.
Then, in an instant, they burned out.
Oregon scored 34 second-half points against an overmatched Arizona defense and cruised to a 48-29 win Friday, chasing away any hope the Wildcats had of a national splash or playing a BCS buster. Arizona (7-4 overall, 4-4 Pac-10) will finish its regular season Thursday against Arizona State, with a bowl game coming after that; where Arizona goes, and who it plays, hinges on the Territorial Cup result.
"We came out hitting them," tailback Nicolas Grigsby said. "Then their offense started hitting us."
Speaking inside a cramped utility room on a freezing cold night, coach Mike Stoops classified Friday's game - Arizona's third straight defeat - as an opportunity lost. The UA led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter and 19-14 at halftime, and received the second-half kickoff. Things then unraveled.
"Just too many mistakes in the second half," Stoops said.
Mistakes? Try too many points.
The Ducks scored 20 third-quarter points to put the game away, though it felt like 100.
Josh Huff gave Oregon (11-0, 8-0) the lead with on its second play of the half, rushing 85 yards for a score. After forcing Arizona to punt, Oregon put together one of its most impressive performances in its record-setting year. Quarterback Darron Thomas led a 19-play, 99-yard drive that he capped with a 20-yard run. The Ducks caught a break when Arizona's Ricky Elmore jumped offside on an Oregon field goal attempt, one kicker Rob Beard missed. The Ducks were awarded a first down.
"That was costly," said Stoops, whose team lost 44-41 in double overtime to Oregon last year. "You just can't make that mistake."
Alex Zendejas hit a 41-yard field goal, cutting the lead to five points, before Oregon tacked on another score. D.J. Davis caught a 6-yard pass from Thomas with 36 remaining in the quarter to extend the lead to 12 points. The Ducks led by as many as 26 in the fourth quarter against an exhausted, embattled UA defense.
The Wildcats' passing attack fared better.
Quarterback Nick Foles completed 29 of 54 passes for 448 yards and three scores, the fourth-best performance in program history. Juron Criner caught three passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns - the second one coming when he beat Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris for an 85-yard score in the first quarter. David Roberts caught five passes for 64 yards and a touchdown, one that cut the Ducks' lead in the fourth quarter.
"I thought we moved the ball well for most of the game," Foles said. "There were a couple times when we didn't execute the way we wanted to, but I thought we regrouped when we needed to."
Against Oregon, a couple missteps are enough. Arizona gained 506 yards in a losing effort, in part because it takes so much to stop the famed "Blur" offense.
And Friday, it was stellar.
Tailback LaMichael James rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns despite missing half the second quarter after getting tagged by UA safety Adam Hall. Thomas completed 14 of 24 passes for 148 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed six times for 62 yards and a score.
Oregon's down-the-depth-chart players upstaged them. Huff rushed three times for 103 yards and a touchdown, and Kenjon Barner had 71 rushing yards. The Ducks' best receiver was a tight end, David Paulson, who entered the game with just 15 catches. He had three receptions for 48 yards and a TD.
Like the other 10 teams Oregon has faced - and defeated - Arizona didn't have the depth to compete.
It had the energy. For a half.
"You can't let them get ahead," Foles said, "especially in the second half."
• What: Arizona State at Arizona
• When: 6 p.m. Thursday
• TV: ESPN
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)