Oregon credits its strong play this season to it being a cohesive unit both on and off the field.
The Ducks look to extend their winning streak to four games when they visit Arizona in a Pac-10 matchup on Saturday.
Since being routed 45-13 by top-ranked USC on Sept. 24, Oregon (6-1, 3-1) has registered road wins over Stanford and Arizona State, and a 45-21 home victory over Washington last Saturday.
On Sunday, the Ducks moved up five spots to No. 15 in The AP poll, their highest ranking since being 10th in 2003.
“Our team is just clicking,” defensive end Devan Long said. “Our team is so close as friends; we all have each other’s back. We could be down 24-7 and still know that we would win.”
Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens went 36-of-48 for 425 yards and four touchdowns last week. His 36 completions broke the Autzen Stadium record of 33, shared by Fresno State’s Paul Pinegar (2005) and BYU’s Ty Detmer (1990).
“It’s special. I’m excited. But I’m not a records guy,” Clemens said. “At this point we wanted to go out and get our sixth win and be bowl eligible. There’s a feeling, a confidence, almost an aura when we take the field right now.
“We’re expecting to win.”
The Ducks face only one ranked team—No. 25 California—in their four remaining games, and are hoping to perform better than last season’s stretch run when they lost their final three games to finish 5-6.
The difference with the Ducks this year, according to cornerback Justin Phinisee, is “our attitude, our defense coming together and our senior leadership.”
Arizona (1-5, 0-3) lost its fourth straight game last week, 20-16 at home to Stanford. Quarterback Richard Kovalcheck went 21-of-39 with two interceptions and was sacked five times as the Wildcats finished with five turnovers.
Frustrated with the offensive results, Arizona coach Mike Stoops talked about possibly ending the redshirt status of prize recruit quarterback Willie Tuitama.
“We have to see if Willie can give us a spark and give him an opportunity,” said Stoops, who declined to confirm that he plans to replace Kovalcheck. “It is a tough decision. We have to see what he is capable of.”
Tuitama completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,734 yards and 32 touchdowns to lead St. Mary’s to the California Division I sectional championship last season.
“I’m ready,” Tuitama said. “I have confidence in myself and I think that’s important.”
Oregon has won the last six meetings in this series, and is 9-1 against Arizona under coach Mike Bellotti.