EUGENE - Oregon has not faced a rushing attack this good all season. The reason for that is pretty obvious, outside of the Ducks themselves, no one in the Pac-12 has run the ball as proficiently as the Arizona Wildcats.
For the Wildcats, running the ball starts and ends with No. 25: junior running back Ka'Deem Carey. Carey is the nation's second best runner, averaging just over 150 yards per game.
"One of the best in the country without a doubt. I'm not saying that because we play them this week, he's really good," Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said Tuesday.
While Oregon ran for just 145 yards agains Utah this past week, Carey ran for 232 by himself against the same Ute defense earlier this season.
"Carey and me would be a dynamic duo, because I'd hand it to him and get out of the way," Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said.
Oregon did a respectable job of limiting Carey in last year's shutout win over the Wildcats, but Carey's 74 yard effort has proven to be an aberration. Over the course of the last two seasons, a sum of 22 games, Carey has been held under 100 yards rushing just three times.
"He's shifty, he can bounce it outside, he can change direction," Aliotti said. "Not only is he a strong inside runner, he can you miss in space, he hits holes fast. I'm impressed with Ka'Deem Carey."
Carey's running ability creates challenges for defenses not only because of how effective he is, but also because of how he forces the opponent to key in on him, leaving quarterback B.J. Denker the opportunity to keep it and run. Denker has run for 709 yards this season, the most by any quarterback in the league this season.
"Our quarterback player has to play the quarterback, our tailback player has to try and tackle him by himself and everybody has to try and rally," Helfrich explained.
Fighting National Slights
Helfrich was asked about the national perception that the Ducks are regressing while the rest of the nation's elite appear to be progressing. Helfrich says "that's part of the deal".
"Good or bad, our guys have put themselves in position by what they've done to make a 44- win against a quality conference opponent frustrating and not enough. That's fine from a perception standpoint," he said.
"Some of those teams are going to have scores that look a lot different than our scores. A team wins a conference game 21-17, and they're a workman-like effort, and if we won a game 21-17, you'd try to fire me."
Aliotti appears to be pretty blown away by the athletic intangibles freshman twins Tyree and Tyrell Robinson posses. While his brother Tyree redshirts, Tyrell has made enough of the impact that Aliotti said Tuesday that "If he knew what we were doing right now, he could probably start."
"I can't teach a guy to be cat-like from sideline-to-sideline," he explained. "I can't teach a guy to be 6-foot-4 and run like a deer. We've got to teach him the X's and O's, but that young man has got some athleticism that one of these days, he's going to be really special."
Aliotti also said that he wishes they would've given Tyree the opportunity to get "some reps and brought along" this season as well.
"Next spring is going to be huge for those guys. They're really really good athletes. I wish we could have about 30 of them," he said.