Greg Hansen: LSU's rout of Cats in 2006 still affecting Arizona, Pac-10

2010-11-26T00:00:00Z 2012-11-30T19:17:48Z Greg Hansen: LSU's rout of Cats in 2006 still affecting Arizona, Pac-10Greg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 26, 2010 12:00 am  • 

EUGENE, Ore.

Dear Mr. Football: What does Arizona's 2006 loss at LSU, 45-3, have to do with tonight's game?

A: Connect the dots. The Tigers rolled to an 11-win season, beat Notre Dame 41-14 in the Sugar Bowl, and LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher became a rising star. Florida State hired Fisher as the eventual replacement for Bobby Bowden.

After Fisher left LSU, the Tigers hired Oregon offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, whose 2006 offense led the Pac-10 in total offense at 423 yards per game.

The Ducks hired Chip Kelly, an obscure single-wing-running, triple-option-loving mad scientist from small-college New Hampshire, which was coming off victories of 62-7 over Stony Brook, 63-21 over Rhode Island and 56-14 over Dartmouth. Who knew?

Along with USC's hiring of Pete Carroll in 2001, it was the league's most significant acquisition since Arizona lured Lute Olson from Iowa in 1983.

Under Kelly, Oregon has led the Pac-10 in scoring in 2007, 2008, 2009 and again this year. Before he arrived, the Ducks led the Pac-10 in scoring once, in 1989.

Dear Mr. Football: Did New Hampshire cancel its football program after Kelly left?

A: The UNH Wildcats are averaging 24.7 points this season. They have lost to Rhode Island, Maine and William & Mary. They are working on their third offensive coordinator since he departed.

Dear Mr. Football: Does tonight's game project as anything similar to Arizona's 1981 victory over No. 1 USC and its 1992 victory over No. 1 Washington?

A: Not even close. The '81 Trojans and the '92 Huskies won with defense and their running games. Close games were routine; USC averaged just 24 points that year. Washington averaged 27 points in '92. You could hang tight against superior forces.

The point of the games in '81 and '92 was to kill the clock and minimize mistakes. Offenses were vanilla, and the pace was slow. If you got off 65 plays in a game, it was prolific. Your punter was often as important as your quarterback.

Today, the Ducks average 79.7 snaps per game. That's nine more than up-tempo Boise State (70.3), and No. 2 nationally to Oklahoma's 85.9. Remember Arkansas' NCAA title-winning basketball press of the early '90s? That was 40 Minutes of Hell. What Oregon does now is 60 Minutes of Hell.

Dear Mr. Football: Could this be the coldest game in Arizona's Pac-10 years?

A: The Ducks had a snowball fight at Wednesday's practice. But this won't be Pullman in 1986, 34 degrees at kickoff, and dropping, when Arizona beat Wazzu 31-6 on a field ringed by snow.

Arizona has played just two other Frost Bowls since joining the Pac-10, and it won both: in November 1981, in a rain/windstorm at Oregon State, Arizona prevailed 40-7. And in a driving rain with temperatures in the low 40s at Washington in 1988, Arizona won 16-13.

I personally think the coldest game Arizona played was at Autzen Stadium on Nov. 18, 2006, and I've been to all of 'em. It was 44 degrees and foggy - visibility: 200 yards - at kickoff. It was about 35 degrees and foggy with almost no visibility when Arizona finished its 37-10 victory.

The Ducks celebrate the chill. They keep the windows to the press box open. It makes me want to cry.

Dear Mr. Football: What is the biggest misconception of Oregon football.

A: That the Ducks are a passing team. Not so. They are No. 6 in the NCAA in rushing (291 yards per game), although it might be more accurate to say they are a scoring team (50.4 points per game).

Mike Stoops, who doesn't stray far from the football truth, said that Oregon running back LaMichael James "is the best running back we've seen in a long, long time."

In that context, Stoops' Arizona teams have played against future NFL runners Reggie Bush, Toby Gerhart, Maurice Jones-Drew, Jahvid Best, Justin Forsett, Marshawn Lynch and LenDale White.

Dear Mr. Football: Did the Ducks buy their way to success?

A: Let's put it this way: Arizona needs $85 million - and it is having difficulty gathering enough money - to build a four-story football plant in the north end of Arizona Stadium to match some of what Oregon has at Autzen Stadium. Or so it thought.

This week, the Ducks announced they will build another football fortress: a six-story, 130,000 square foot palace worth "tens of millions" to be financed entirely by Mr. Swoosh, Phil Knight.

Dear Mr. Football: How confident are the Ducks?

A: On a Portland sports-talk radio show Wednesday, Kelly actually entertained and answered a question about "shutting guys down and resting starters" if the Ducks get a big lead tonight.

That's a trap question, poison, that most coaches dismiss and won't touch. Kelly said: "That's a moment-to-moment decision. When you're winning, you start thinking of the next game, because we can't afford to lose to anybody."

In 2008 at Autzen, the Ducks essentially shut down emotionally at halftime, leading Arizona 45-17. Pretty soon, it was 48-45 and Arizona had a chance to win with three minutes to play. (The Ducks won 55-45.)

That would be the best possible scenario for the Wildcats tonight.

It's more likely this could be a confidence-shattering experience in the chill and fog for all the world to see. The Ducks aren't just a scoring machine. They are 11th nationally in scoring defense, first in NCAA punt returns, fifth in turnover margin and even 17th in net punting. (I didn't even know Oregon had a punter.)

Big trouble. Oregon 52, Arizona 27.

Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or ghansen@azstarnet.com

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