By Rob Moseley
Venue: Autzen Stadium
Mark Helfrich will have more than a football game on his mind at Arizona Stadium on Saturday.
No. 5 Oregon’s 12:30 p.m. PT kickoff at Arizona will be Helfrich’s first game back in Tucson since his father passed there just prior to the Ducks’ 2011 visit. Mike Helfrich was there to watch the game, and passed away in a hotel room.
For his son, there will be no way to escape that memory this weekend.
“Definitely, definitely, definitely,” Helfrich said today after practice. “Every part of it, to a certain degree, that will be on my mind. But at the same time, I’ll be focused on the game as well. But there will be a couple moments where that will be on my mind, for sure.”
Mike Helfrich was a long-time high school coach in Coos Bay on the Oregon coast, and helped instill in his son a love of the game. He passed away a year and a half before Mark was promoted to head coach of the Ducks.
“He’d think it was pretty cool; he’d be embarrassed by (the extravagant new facilities), and that kind of stuff, and he’d be correcting what I’ve done wrong,” Mark said. “But yeah, he’d be tremendously proud.”
It will be a delicate emotional balance for Helfrich this weekend, as he allows some time to remember his father while also preparing for a tough matchup with the Wildcats.
“They’re a really good team,” he said. “It’s just another place in our conference that’s a tough place to play. They’ve got a ton of talent, one of the best tailbacks in the country, a quarterback that’s playing with more confidence, and yeah, they’ll be hungry to bounce back after last week.”
Observations: A layer of frost covered Autzen Stadium’s field prior to practice, and remained there in areas still covered by shadows later in the morning. … That said, at least eight players went without long sleeves despite sub-freezing temperatures for the start of practice. On offense: Mana Greig, Hamani Stevens, Matt Pierson and Kani Benoit. On defense: Ricky Havili-Heimuli, Wade Keliikipi, Cody Carriger and Rodney Hardrick. … A new addition to the practice playlist today: Arizona’s fight song.