In case anyone thought Arizona’s 42-16 win over Oregon in 2013 was a fluke, the Wildcats beat the No. 2 Ducks, 31-24, last Thursday for good measure.
In other words, it’s time to give Arizona some respect.
“We talked quite a bit about last year is last year and this year is this year,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “But our guys did have a little bit of confidence that, hey, we could play with these guys. And if we played well, we got a chance. I told them we didn’t have to play perfect to win, but we got to play hard and we got to play well. Because we both have similar systems and we like to play fast, (it helps). But I told our guys we’ve been doing this fast things before Oregon thought about doing it. We had to grow up in that world, and we’re comfortable being uncomfortable. I think that’s really helped us.”
Arizona controlled the game through two quarters but trailed 7-3 at halftime.
“We were disappointed, but we were frustrated more than anything else,” Rodriguez said. “We felt we had some things. We could move the ball and we just weren’t finishing drives. We weren’t executing. But our defense was playing so well, they kept us in the game. So going into the second half, we were pretty confident that if we could just execute a little bit better, (we’d be okay). It was important for us in the third quarter to finish because we knew they were going to come back and score.”
Arizona running back Nick Wilson scored three touchdowns in the third quarter – a 3-yard run, a 2-yard run and a 24-yard pass. The Wildcats led 24-14 through three quarters, gave up 10 points to start the fourth and ultimately won the game on a 1-yard touchdown run by Terris Jones-Grigsby with less than three minutes to go. Jones-Grisby’s run capped a 15-play drive, which was aided by a taunting penalty on Oregon’s Tony Washington following a sack on third-and-8.
Arizona was called for the same penalty earlier in the game.
“It hurt us too when we got ours,” Rodriguez said. “You just got to be smarter about that (and) understand how the officials are going to call the game. (If) they’re going to call it that tight, (you have to) warn your guys you can’t have any extra-curricular stuff.”
Arizona (5-0, 2-0) is now ranked tenth in the AP Poll. The Wildcats – the highest-ranked team in the Pac-12 – host USC (3-2, 2-1) on Oct. 11.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Rodriguez said, discussing the prospect of turning Arizona into a national power. “We’ve never been to the Rose Bowl. It’s tough. But we have enough things in place and there’s enough players out there that if we can just get them to visit Tucson, Arizona – see our campus, see our stuff, be around our guys – we think we have a great opportunity to do it. We believe in what we’re doing.”
Needless to say, Rodriguez is happy that he’s in Tucson – as opposed to Ann Arbor, where Brady Hoke is on the hot seat. And not just for his 2-4 (0-2) start.
“A lot of people have asked me that over the last week or so,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been removed there four years. There’s only one or two players left (who I recruited) – Devin Gardner being one of them. It’s unfortunate.”