TUCSON, Ariz. — The goal posts lying flat on the field, Arizona’s fans lingered on the field, congregating around the locker room entrance nearly 30 minutes after rushing out of the stands.
This was a big one for Arizona.
For Oregon, it was a crushing blow, to its national title hopes and maybe its BCS bowl chances, too.
Ka’Deem Carey ran for 206 yards and four touchdowns while becoming Arizona’s all-time leading rusher, and the Wildcats pulled off a monumental upset by taking advantage of numerous Oregon miscues, shocking the fifth-ranked Ducks 42-16 on Saturday.
“A good win, honestly,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “This was a great opportunity for our guys and they took it.”
It was hard to see this one coming.
Arizona was coming off consecutive home losses, the most disappointing last week’s toe-stubbing against Washington State.
Oregon had raced through most of its schedule, a loss to Stanford putting a dent in its national championship hopes, but a Rose Bowl bid still on the table.
The Wildcats (7-4, 4-3 Pac-12) turned the tables on the fast-paced Ducks, eschewing the normal slow-it-down routine most teams play against them by keeping their foot on the throttle.
With Carey bursting through the line to punish defenders and B.J. Denker dinking and dashing with a variety of fakes, the Wildcats jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead and kept going for their first win over a top-five team since knocking off No. 2 Oregon in 2007.
Oregon (9-2, 6-2) gave the Wildcats plenty of help with three turnovers and turning it over twice more on downs to end its national title hopes and, possibly, its four-year run of BCS bowls.
Carey was the workhorse for Arizona as he has been all season, carrying a school-record 48 times while scoring on runs of 6, 1, 9 and 2 yards to break Art Luppino’s career record of 48 total touchdowns set from 1953-56. Carey also reached 3,913 career yards rushing, breaking the mark of 3,824 set by Trung Canidate from 1996-99.
Denker threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 102 more and Arizona had 304 yards rushing, a season-high against Oregon.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Denker, who was 19 of 22 passing. “This is a crazy win for our program, for our coaching staff, for our players, for our seniors. Everything went great today.”
Not for Oregon.
The normally high-flying Ducks couldn’t keep up in the Wildcats’ final home game of the season.
Oregon sputtered most of the day, showing only flashes of the offensive brilliance that had them No. 2 in total offense and third in scoring entering the game.
Marcus Mariota threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns, but also had two interceptions, his first since Nov. 17, 2012, against Stanford.
The Ducks outgained Arizona 506-482 in total yards, but couldn’t overcome all the uncharacteristic miscues to lose consecutive road games for the first time since 2007.
Earlier in the week, De’Anthony Thomas said it was no big deal for the Ducks to go to the Rose Bowl. After this debacle, that’s out of reach, too.
“It hurts,” Mariota said. “I haven’t been blown out like this in my life.
Mariota’s first interception came on a spectacular play, kick-starting Arizona for the monumental upset.
It came on Oregon’s first play from scrimmage, when Bralon Addison dropped a pass near the sideline. Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson snared the carom and flipped it back to teammate Scooby Wright as he was falling out of bounds. It ended Mariota’s Pac-12 record streak of passes without an interception at 353 and Carey followed with a 6-yard touchdown run.
Oregon’s next drive ended with another drop, this one by De’Anthony Thomas on what would have been a big third-down gain. Arizona followed with another touchdown, a 9-yard pass from Denker to Nate Phillips along the left sideline to make it 14-0.
The Wildcats kept marching on Oregon’s defense, moving 83 yards in 16 plays for a 5-yard touchdown pass from Denker, who set it up by faking the run, to Terrence Miller to make it 21-3.
Arizona got one more chance after stopping Oregon on downs, ripping off 59 yards in 42 seconds for Carey’s second TD, a 1-yard run that made it 28-9 at halftime.
The Wildcats’ defense wasn’t bad, either.
The Ducks needed over eight minutes to get their first first down and when they finally got a drive going, had to settle for Matt Wogan’s 33-yard field goal after a holding call against tight end Pharaoh Brown negated Mariota’s 6-yard TD run.
Oregon raced down for a 1-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to Brown in the second quarter, but the final two drives of the half ended in failure: Thomas Tyner lost a fumble and Mariota came up short on fourth-and-2 when he was stripped of the ball.
“Obviously, how we started, in every phase, that is 100 percent my fault,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. “I have to figure out exactly which levers to pull and which buttons to push on.”
Once word of the upset-in-the-making spread around campus, the student section began to fill up.
And the Wildcats finished it off.
The Ducks opened second half by failing on a fourth-and-2 at Arizona’s 6 and did nothing else until Mariota hit Josh Huff on a 2-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter.
Arizona answered with a bruising 75-yard drive, capped by Carey’s 49th career TD, a 2-yard run that put Arizona up 42-16.
Richardson sealed the upset with an interception near the goal line late in the fourth quarter and the fans streamed from the stands once the final horn sounded.
“Those seniors will have a memory that will last them a long time,” Rodriguez said.
And leave the Ducks with one that will sting for quite a while.